The Hidden Kingdom of Fungi opens a secret world into our forests and homes

A detailed, scientific approach to the study of Fungi in our forests and our homes.

The Hidden Kingdom of Fungi takes readers into a secret world and traces the intricate connections between fungi and life on earth.

Along the way, author Keith Seifert, describes how these remarkable microbes enrich our lives: from releasing carbon in plants, to transmitting information between trees in the form of mycorrhizal fungi.

This book, from Canadian publishers Greystone, takes readers of Entangled Life and The Hidden Life of Trees into the world of Fungi in its more than 200 pages backed by scientific research and the incredible knowledge of author and fellow Canadian Keith Seifert, who has spent more than 40 years studying fungi on five continents. The Ottawa, Canada resident has researched microscopic fungi from farms, forests, food and the built environment, to reduce toxins and diseases affecting plants and animals.

In the book, The Hidden Life of Trees, the authors clearly connected the communication between our forest and backyard trees with the communication highway created by the mycorrhizal fungi buried beneath the soil.

In the Hidden Kingdom of Fungi, mycologist and author Keith Seifert takes the concept to a whole other level, describing in detail the process and the interdependency.

This book is for anyone who wants to explore deeply into the world of fungi, whether it’s the obvious forms that we see growing in the forests and in our gardens to the more hidden ones that live in our homes, bodies and farms.

Mushrooms and fungi in our forests

The importance of fungi in our forests and backyard woodlands can’t be underestimated.

In fact, the author points out that fungi are critical partners in the eventual success or failure of all forests. No matter how anemic the woodlot, in the autumn you will find mushrooms growing and throwing their spores into the wind. They are most obvious in fall, but no matter what time of year you are in a forest, you are surrounded by fungi that are hidden in plain sight.

As the author points out, fungi covers the outside of leaves and bark, hide inside leaf tissue or wind their hyphae around the roots of trees. They are always at work decomposing dead pockets of wood, in the soil breaking down plants.

Are fungi part of our lives?

From our forests, to industry and into our homes, fungi play a major role in our lives and our existence.

Readers will gain knowledge into where these fungi came from and how yeast, lichens, slimes and molds evolved and adapted over millions of years. Toward the end of the book, the author explores how fungi are being used to clean up oil spills and break down plastics.

The book even touches on the role fungi is playing a role in nuclear disasters such as the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.

The use of fungi to clean up or detoxify spills from mining disasters, accidents or simply heavily polluted areas is call mychoremediation, and it is being used by scientists around the world. Fungal mycelium absorption capabilities have been tested to be used to clean up after forest fires, nerve gas attacks and fuel spills in land and sea.

The author points to an oil spill in 2007 in San Francisco that used a combination of human hair and oyster mushrooms to mop up the spill.

Through research into fears that Ukrainians eating wild mushrooms in and around the Chernobyl fallout zone, researchers found that many mushrooms accumulated heavy metals (such as cesium 137) in their mycelium. The research showed that mushrooms could be cultivated to extract isotopes from the soil then harvested and incinerated for disposal.

It’s just one of many fascinating ways fungi could be used to change our world into the future.

Vic MacBournie

Vic MacBournie is a former journalist and author/owner of Ferns & Feathers. He writes about his woodland wildlife garden that he has created over the past 25 years and shares his photography with readers.

Three Ornamental grasses for the shade or woodland garden


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