There is fungus
among us—just underfoot—breaking down dead plant
matter into nutrients needed by plants. Fungi come in many
forms, some clearly visible (such as mushrooms) and some
© Karen Cloete,
Certain special fungi
have struck an inside deal with the plant world. These mycorrhizal
fungi live in and among the roots of plants. Casting a wide absorptive
net of filaments into the surrounding soil, mycorrhizal fungi
scavenge nutrients from the soil, then deliver them to the roots
of the plant. In exchange, the fungi live off of sugar they extract
from the plants’ roots.
Plants that grow in cahoots with mycorrhizal
fungi grow faster and enjoy greater resistance to drought and
disease than plants that make do without them. Onions, corn,
strawberries, and trees are particulary dependent on this association,
especially in soils in which nutrients are sparse.
Worms—far from lowly!