The biggest living thing in the world

by Rick Roberts
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What is the world’s biggest living…..thing? If you answered the blue whale then no, that is the biggest animal alive today. If you said the ichthyosaur, then no, that was the biggest animal ever alive. The biggest thing, now that is a question that is rarely asked. When we say ‘living thing’, we mean living organism. The answer is a mushroom.

The honey mushroom or as it is known in scientific communities, the Armillaria Ostoyae, is the largest living thing in the world. A blue whale is up to 26 meters long while the Armillaria Ostoyae has an outline of nearly six kilometers. The massive mushroom started as just a single tiny mushroom that you would not even be able to see with a microscope. From there it grew and grew to spread its filaments through a forest. It can be found in a forest in Oregon covering 2,200 acres.

If it is difficult to understand the size of this incredible mushroom, imagine 1665 football fields and you are pretty close. Before you jump in your car and head for Oregon to get a photo with the biggest living thing in the world, you need to understand a little more.

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The mushroom is not one giant mushroom that stands tall over the trees of the forest or anything like that. The fungus is under the soil and so it is not possible to see the full extent of it with a simple photo. The only evidence of it overground is the clumps of mushrooms that pop up in the area. They all belong to that one organism. 

The only reason scientists were even able to find it was because there were complaints that the trees were dying. No one understood why until one scientist sampled some of the mushrooms and found they were all the same living thing. The fungus is stealing nutrients and water from the trees above the soil and killing each one in the process. Scientists are still determining what to do with the massive mushroom as although it is killing all the trees in the area it has reason to be left to survive given its incredible accolade and the fact that it has been part of nature for millions of years.

It may come as a surprise that the largest living thing in the world is a mushroom but when you understand it is an underground fungus spreading through a forest it makes a little more sense. There are likely many more of these mushrooms in the world today that people have not realized are one organism.

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