Wet and Dry Rot Fungi

Features of Fungi

Fungi are plants, members of the vegetable kingdom, and this is the group to which the organisms responsible for the particular decay of wood called Dry rot and cellar fungus belongs. The fungi are primitive in their development and must have evolved very early on from the most primitive of the green plants, algae and this very early in the history of living matter on earth. The fungi have developed to form a group of organisms of the greatest importance and something like 90,000 different species are known, although only 5000 species of green algae have so far been identified.

Green plants and photosynthesis

How Fungi Grow

Green plants contain a complex substance called chlorophyll. This is contained in small ovoid bodies called chloroplasts which move about in the cell sap. Carbon dioxide which is a colourless gas occurring to the extent of 0.03% by volume in the atmosphere is absorbed by the plant and with water absorbed by the roots and aid the chlorophyll and energy derived from sun light, simple carbohydrate substances (that is substances containing carbon, hydrogen and oxygen) are built up by synthesis.

More complex organic substances are built up by the plant from these simple carbohydrates. One of the more complex carbohydrates is cellulose which goes to form the walls of the box like ‘cells’ of which plants are composed. Cellulose consists of relatively large molecules but nevertheless is built up from relatively simple units of glucose. This is by far the most important process which takes place on earth, as all animals are directly or indirectly dependent upon green plants.

With the possible exception of man the fungi are surely the next most important group because they bring about the destruction of green plants and bring other nutrient materials decomposing them back into the earth. Besides the chemical elements already mentioned which are present in the tissue of plants a number of mineral substances are also present although in much smaller quantities.

These mineral salts are soluble in water and are absorbed by the plants through the root system. These salts are present only in small amounts in the soil and so unless the plants died and the nutrients dispersed in the soil through the action of decaying life would struggle to thrive.

How Wet and Dry Rot Fungi Feed

Fungi are plants without chlorophyll and therefore must obtain their nourishment from other organic matter. If they obtain their nourishment from living organisms they are known as parasites. A large number of species of fungi are known to be living a special relationship with animals or plants in which they are mutually beneficial.

This special relationship is known as a symbiosis; the individual partners are known as the symbionts. An example is the yeast like fungi habituating the gut of the larva of the wood bring beetle common furniture beetle (Anobium punctatum). The yeast like cells plays a part in the nutrition of the larva.

The yeast like fungal cells is maintained in an environment in the gut  of the larva which is beneficial to them. The other group of fungi, those which obtain their nourishment from dead organic matter are known as saprophytes and it is this group that the wood rotting fungi with which we are interested in and dry rot and the cellar fungus and others belong. These types of fungi obtain their nourishment from the timber in your homes.

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