Looking out across your lawn this morning, you may have awakened to the sight of mushrooms growing among your grass, garden, and trees. However, despite growing together and seemingly living the same lives, mushrooms and other types of fungus aren’t the same as plants. In fact, they’re not even in the same kingdom, much less family!
So, are mushrooms and other fungus plants? Keep reading to find out the detailed answer and more!
What is Taxonomy?
When you’re trying to figure out whether or not mushrooms and fungi are types of plants, it’s important to look toward taxonomy.
Humans have always cared for organization. Research has shown even our ancestors, the Neanderthals, cared about better understanding where things belong – as seen from the remains of their tidy shelters that researchers have managed to uncover. And, when it comes from our love of classification, the organisms of the world aren’t an exception.
Taxonomy is a branch of science that focuses on organizing all of the organisms found on Earth. From plants to animals to even fungi, taxonomy is a study of systematics that help us better understand how one creature is related to another. Taxonomy is also where you will see scientific names. For instance, the scientific name for humans is Homo sapiens. This includes the genus and the species name, but it can go much further to include other important branches, such as kingdom and family.
Overall, there are eight different classifications in taxonomy. These include domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. When you’re trying to tell if two organisms are the same, or even related, it’s important to have a good understanding of their classifications. Because each level of classification is known to have certain characteristics, it can help you to better identify similarities – or differences. As a result, it can be great when you’re trying to learn whether or not mushrooms and fungi are plants!
Taxonomy and Kingdoms
When you’re trying to tell whether or not two organisms are related, you’ll want to start with the more diverse level of classification and work your way down. Typically, this will begin with domains. There are three overall domains of life: the Archaea, the Bacteria, and the Eukarya. Unless you’re working with bacteria and microorganisms, you’ll usually focus on the Eukarya.
As a result, when we’re focusing on things like humans or plants or other animals, telling who is who usually comes down to the kingdom. There are four different kingdoms in the domain Eukarya: Fungi, Plantae, Animalia, and the less known Protista.
From these four kingdoms, there are hundreds of possibilities. Each one is its own separate branch, developing a hugely diverse tree of life.
Plants Vs. Mushrooms: Comparing Taxonomy
When it comes to telling whether or not mushrooms and other fungi are plants, it’s best to look at the taxonomy. This helps us to see where scientists have placed them over the years after studying their characteristics and similarities – or differences.
Plants are in the kingdom Plantae. They are divided into seven different sections:
- Bryophyta (Mosses)
- Hepatophyta (Liverworts)
- Anthocerotophyta (Hornworts)
- Equisetophyta (Horsetails)
- Pteridophyta (Ferns)
- Coniferophyta (Conifers)
- Ginkgophyta (Ginkgo)
- Angiosperms (Flowering plants).
However, mushrooms and fungi don’t fit into any of these categories. Instead, they have their own taxonomy. Mushrooms, as well as other types of fungus, are found in the kingdom Fungi. Therefore, mushrooms and fungi are not classified as plants.
How else are plants and mushrooms different?
There are more than systematics and taxonomy dividing mushrooms and fungi from plants.
One of the major differences between fungi and plants is how they acquire their energy. Plants undergo a process that is known as photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, plants utilize sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce a sugar known as glucose, as well as oxygen. The plants are then able to break down the sugar they’ve created to use as fuel. Because they are creating their own energy, they are what is known as an autotroph.
Mushrooms, however, are actually like humans and other animals! They are what is known as a heterotroph. This means that they are unable to create their own food through a process like photosynthesis. Instead, mushrooms grow near decaying material, such as fallen logs, in order to break down the nutrients available there.
How are plants and mushrooms similar?
Just because they’re in different taxonomies and have different characteristics, this isn’t to say that there are no similarities between plants and mushrooms. In fact, they have a lot in common, which is one reason why it can be difficult to tell if mushrooms and fungi are plants.
First and foremost, both plants and mushrooms lack locomotion. This means that they can move, such as bending towards the sunlight or growing taller, but they are unable to move to a new location through means like walking.
They also have a lot in common on a cellular level!
Editor’s Note: While A-Z Animals does its best to ensure the accuracy of its content and photography, do not eat wild mushrooms without firsthand knowledge from a local mycologist or mushroom expert as many types of mushrooms look similar.
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The content on this page is for informational purposes only and may contain inaccuracies. Please verify all information independently. AZ Animals says: do not eat any wild mushrooms or plants without firsthand knowledge that they are safe for consumption.
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- Livescience (1970) livescience.com/41682-neanderthals-organized-their-caves.html
- National Library of Medicine, Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/taxonomy