The honey mushroom fungus located in Oregon, USA, is the largest living organism discovered till date.1 The fungi is spread across a staggering 3.8 kilometers and lives within the Oregon’s Blue Mountains, a large mountain range with an area of 4,060 square miles. The fungus is so large that it would take Usain Bolt, the fast man on Earth, to run at a constant top speed of 44.72 kmph (world record speed) for roughly 3.72 minutes to cover its entire length.
The organism resides both on the surface as well as under it. The top part of the organism consists of the mushrooms we see on the surface, while the bottom part (under the surface) contains its core. The fungus survives by latching itself to the roots of surrounding trees, which then act as hosts to the Fungi. Once a particular amount of nutrition is absorbed by the fungus, the tree withers and dies.
As these fungi have known to live for thousands of years, they have been the cause of innumerable trees deaths across the world. Chestnut blight, a disease that erupts from a similar fungi, caused the demise of approximately 4 billion American chestnut trees,2 causing economic and social unrest in certain parts of the USA . Various initiatives were taken to contain the blight by groups like American Chestnut Foundation, Cornell University and USDA Forest Service, among others. The groups tried to fight the blight by administering a hypovirus within the fungus, with the aim of containing the infection
The organism was discovered in 1998 by ecologists and scientists from The US Forest Service. The team was trying to decode the reason for increased tree deaths in the area. Upon close inspection and numerous testing of tree roots, barks and leaves, it was concluded that the deaths were associated with a large underground fungus, later to be called the honey mushroom fungus of Oregon. The scientists used DNA fingerprinting and other similar methods to deduce the large size of the organism.