The University Record, November 19, 2001

Fungi fun site highlights mold to mushrooms

By Lesley Harding

The Meadow mushroom, Agaricus campestris. (Images from the Web site)
They’re creepy, they’re crawly and at least one U-M professor thinks they’re pretty cool. That’s why Robert Fogel, Wehmeyer Professor in Fungal Taxonomy and professor of biology, has developed a Web site devoted strictly to fungi.

“Fun Facts About Fungi” is everything you’ve always wanted to know about mushrooms, lichens, mold, mildew, thallophytic plants, saprophytes and truffles, but were afraid to ask.

“I can reach more people this way than if they visited a museum,” says Fogel. “It amazes me the amount of interest there is.” In fact, just last month Fogel says more than 64,000 documents were downloaded from his site. But what’s all the fuss about fungi?

“My kids in the Ann Arbor Public Schools had very little exposure to plants and fungi,” says Fogel. “I wanted to make this information available to students and schools.”

Scarlet cup, Sarcoscypha coccinea
So Fogel developed the Web site with school kids in mind. “Fun Facts About Fungi” highlights the many species of mold and mildew complete with pictures and pertinent information. Users can explore the miracle of penicillin and how it was developed from mold, see what kinds of fungi are harmless mushrooms and which are poisonous toadstools, and find out which fungus was used by Chinese women athletes at the Beijing National Games in 1993.

The Web site also has a section of puzzles, experiments and games about fungi. Users even can join the mushroom club, whose members include Fun Guy and Fun Girl.

“A lot of people don’t think fungi are very important,” says Fogel, “but obviously some people do.” His site has become so popular that some teachers use “Fun Facts About Fungi” as a teaching module. Fogel says he’s happy to know that these fun facts are making a difference in some people’s lives. He’s gotten e-mail from as far away as New Zealand and Europe.

To find out some of your own “Fun Facts About Fungi,” visit the Web site at www.herb.lsa.umich.edu/kidpage/factindx.htm.