Our Wild Things columnist Eric Brown suggests a book to help you make the most of UK Fungus Day next month but warns female readers that getting close to these organisms may bring surprise results.
They are probably the greatest army of living things on the planet. They appear everywhere from deserts to forests to frozen tundra and they can invade our bodies, especially between our toes.
No one really knows just how many species of fungi inhabit earth: only that it would take several human lifetimes to count them all.
Scientists took generations deliberating over their classification, at first believing they were perhaps sponges or some form of animal such as worms.
Even now there are so many fungi that many still have no English name.
New types of fungi, especially microfungi, are being discovered constantly, with 37 in 2017 alone.
Mushrooms are the most familiar type of fungi and the next few weeks will be the best time to go out and find some. They love the warm, damp autumn weather.
If you want to learn more about fungi before you go searching, I suggest reading Aliya Whiteley's The Secret Life of Fungi. This beautifully written little book traces Aliya's personal relationship and fascination with fungi all interspersed with a treasure trove of facts about a species hardly awarded a second glance by many of us.
There are more than 15,000 species of wild mushrooms in the UK alone so your chances of finding some are good. Novelist Aliya revels in some of the names: Stinkhorn, Bog Bell, Fairy Sparkler, Rubber Ear, Dead Man's Fingers and the one children love for its sheer grossness Dog Sick Slime Mould. There are so many more you can pick out your own favourites.
Fungi really must be the most numerous living organisms on our planet. And off it. Aliya reveals that fungi growing on rockets and other space exploration equipment really have gone to infinity and beyond. She writes of the captivating smells of fungi. Apparently a 2001 scientific smell test on 36 volunteers produced surprise results. When asked to smell a rare mushroom growing only on lava floes in Hawaii, six of the women volunteers reported experiencing mild orgasms!
Here are a few more fungi facts from Aliya: Fungi are closer to animals than plants, the largest living organism on the planet is a fungus stretching 9,650,000 square metres, fungus has been found on the space station and mycophobia is the fear of fungi as explored in the cult classic film Matango(1963).
You could describe Aliya's entertaining book as a mycyclopedia of fungi.
It will surely stimulate you to join a fungus foray perhaps on UK Fungus Day on Saturday, October 8.