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Grant, Oregon

Honey Mushroom: The Humongous Fungus

This massive mushroom has spent centuries eating its way across a huge swath of Oregon. 

Known locally as the “Humongous Fungus” the massive networked fungus growing beneath Malheur National Forest may be the largest and oldest life form still active on the planet. 

This particular specimen of armillaria ostoyae fungus is not only the world’s biggest organism by area at 2,200 acres, but it is also one of its oldest having been around for at least 2,400 years. Commonly known as the “Honey Mushroom,” the fungus is easy to spot as it appears all over the ground in Malheur National Forest under which the expansive life form thrives. The mushroom’s sweet name belies the fact that it is a parasite, feasting on the roots of the conifers growing above it and killing them in vast swaths. In fact, the only way that scientists have been able to estimate the plant’s true size is by studying the death of the above-ground trees. Another of the fungus’ unique features is its natural bioluminescence which has lit up the night for centuries and is likely the truth behind stories of “foxfire” and “fairy lights” in the area. 

Next to the Malheur fungus, behemoths such as whales and elephants seem like small fry. However, the rest of life on Earth can rest easy knowing that this fungus is a vegetarian.