Fungi can break down wood

Wood is very tough

If you like breadsticks you could pretend to be a fungus?

Take a breadstick and pretend that it's a dead branch from a tree.

Eat the breadstick.

What happens?


Fungi are called 'Decomposers' because they can break down dead animals and plants. They are also good 'recyclers' because the nutrients they release by breaking down the dead organisms goes back into the soil. Without fungi to help us we would not be able to survive on our planet!

Photo by ama

Here you can see a rotten log with fine white threads (the mycelium) of a fungus that can break down wood.

Why is wood tough?

Wood is made up of long chains of special building blocks called 'lignins' and 'cellulose'. They are found in the cell walls of plants. By linking together they make wood tough.

Remember that to grow, a fungus must find food and break it down.  The sorts of food that a fungus eats are dead trees and other dead plants, such as leaves.

Here are some fruit bodies of a fungus that breaks down leaf litter
Here are some fruit bodies of a fungus that breaks down leaf litter

Photo by ama

What happens to the breadstick?

When you eat the breadstick it is broken down into simple sugars by special substances in your mouth calle d enzymes.

Can you taste how sweet the bread stick is when it is broken down?

Fungi use enzymes to break down wood and other dead plant and animal material.

The difference is that we ‘take in food' (like a breadstick) and then break it down using enzymes in our mouths and stomachs, whereas fungi send enzymes out of their fine threads (called hyphae) to break down dead plants such as trees - and then ‘take in’ the food! I suppose you could say we are opposites!