If you have ever trekked through the Malheur National Forest in eastern Oregon, then you surely know about the giant honey mushroom.
This beast of a fungus is currently covering over 2,200 acres and is still spreading! That means it is without a doubt the biggest living organism that we have ever found. The Armillaria ostoyae or as it is popular known: the honey mushroom, starts life as just a tiny spore so small that you can not even see it with the naked eye. The only way you would notice a baby honey mushroom is if you happened to have a microscope with you! Yet this mushroom has been alive for over 2000 years and all the time it has been growing, its black string like roots weaving its way through the forest.
And the bigger it grows the more trees it takes down in the process, remember mushrooms are a fungus which unfortunately is a bacteria that feeds off everything around it. As you walk through the forest you may not even notice the huge mushroom at first, but you will definitely be struck by all the cluster of dead trees.
The fungus is estimated to spread around 4 miles across and be around three feet underground, this means that it would cover an estimated area as big as 1,665 football fields. Pretty incredible! But would it taste good in the frying pan?
One researcher, Dreisbach, from the Forest Service scientist says “They are edible, but they don’t taste the best, I would put lots of butter and garlic on them.” Well, there goes our dreams of making the biggest mushroom omelet!
The area is actually highly studied, the reason being that scientist are interested to know how this organism came to grow so big and possibly if it is controllable. This is because the mushroom does indeed feed off trees and stops other plants from taking life. If you dig up roots in this forest you will find the fungus covers the roots of trees and sucks out the water from them. This interferes with the trees water absorption and does not allow it to have enough nutrients to live. Researchers note that fungus has, of course, served an important purpose in nature for centuries, so do not want to kill the mushroom – however, if they could discover a way to control its growth that would be ideal.
Unfortunately, it just may not be possible, the dry clime of Oregon makes fungus growth easy. Fungus and clumps of mushrooms are a common sight in Oregon and this huge mushroom may be the result of the very dry eastern climate.