The mystery of mushrooms

    ECOLOGY: When the world seems to be falling apart, can the answers humanity need reside in the mushroom?

    If your only experience of a mushroom talking to you was that time as a student when you ate a few psilocybin ‘magic mushrooms’, Marion Neumann’s delightfully eccentric The Mushroom Speaks will open a whole new conversation for you.

    Fungi are an amazing species – they have intelligence, can communicate, regenerate, and occupy places that would be fatal to most other organisms. As the world feels like it is falling apart, Neumann goes in search of answers from the fungal kingdom.

    There is both serious science and intent enquiry in Neumann’s film, but it carries its erudition lightly, criss-crossing the world in search of answers from those deeply entwined in a world of mycelium, spores, and wonderment.

    [The Mushroom Speaks] carries its erudition lightly criss-crossing the world in search of answers from those deeply entwined in a world of mycelium, spores, and wonderment.

    Sensory intelligence

    Mushrooms have been around for a billion years and of the nine million species we share this planet with, it is estimated that five million are fungal. Only one percent of those have been named. Mushrooms are masters of evolution, learning to live and thrive in the most inhospitable of ecological niches: cladosporium sphaerosperum appeared in Chernobyl after the nuclear power plan meltdown there in 1986; it is unaffected by radiation and Neumann ponders its potential for creating space suits of the future. The first living organism to appear after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 was a mushroom – fungus emerging from the horrific mushroom cloud that man’s evil had created, «using radiation as a digestive».

    Neumann is not joking by calling her film The Mushroom Speaks. The lifecycle of fungus is an incredible story of sensory intelligence that can tell when someone approaches and knows . . .

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    Nick Holdsworth
    Our regular critic. Journalist, writer, author. Works mostly from Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.
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