Research

Mushrooms Make Their Own Breeze

Plants and other non-motile organisms have developed some clever methods to disperse their seeds and spores for reproduction. Some plants use vortex rings for dispersal; others make their seeds aerodynamic. Low ground-dwellers like mushrooms must contend with a lack of wind to lift their spores and carry them away. Instead, they use evaporative cooling to generate their own air currents.

Mushroom caps contain a lot of water and, as that water evaporates, it cools air near the mushroom, just as sweat evaporating off your skin cools you. That cooler, denser air tends to spread, carrying the spores outward. At the same time, the freshly evaporated water vapor is less dense than the surrounding air, so it rises. This combination of rising and spreading is capable of carrying spores tens of centimeters into the air, where the wind is stronger and able to carry spores further.  (Image credit: New Atlantis, source; research credit: E. Dressaire et al.)

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