This mushroom is one that a lot of us have eaten over the years. Doesn't look that bad...in fact it's plain and simple in design. It has a singularly unpleasant way to get the nutrients it needs...it eats worms!
Photo credit: Aaron Sherman
Oyster mushrooms of the genus Pleurotus are among the most prized edible mushrooms collected in the wild by human mycophages (a Greek word meaning “fungus eaters”). Oyster mushrooms grow on the trunks of dying and dead trees and break down the wood. The wood contains plenty of cellulose and lignin, but little nitrogen, so these crafty fungi exude chemical lures to attract their microscopic nematode prey.
When the worms crawl onto the fungal hyphae (threadlike filaments that make up most of the mushroom’s mass), the mushroom releases toxins from the tips of tiny, matchstick-like glands that paralyze the worms. The fungus then sends digestive hyphae down the victim’s mouth. They penetrate throughout the body and slowly digest the helpless worm from the inside while it’s still alive.
Now, how a plant gets the food it needs is certainly not my business. It just is a little freaky to me, but I guess that's because I never knew that it was a worm eater.
Coffee in the kitchen again today.