30
$\begingroup$

How plausible would buildings made inside of, or made using, giant mushrooms be?A series of giant nail-like mushroom towers stand on the top of a moutain with doors, windows and balconies carved into the mushrooms

Copyright Raphael Lacoste 2018

A staple of the fantasy genre, mushrooms have commonly been seen as magical and unusual. Often we see houses and structures made inside of these mushrooms by magical or nature-loving individuals, but how possible would this be?

If we assume that they could grow (either through magical or natural means) could you make a house inside of, or using, the giant mushrooms? To qualify as a house, it needs to be someone’s permanent place of residence and contain at least one room. Assume that the structure is meant to be inhabited by a human.

Edit: As several answers pointed out, mushrooms may be too soft to be suitable as housing. To counter this, i will clarify that when i used the term ‘mushroom’ i meant any fungal or fungal-like organic. Plants that are naturally visually similar to a fugus may also be acceptable answers.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ @LiamMorris I know :(. That was a really dumb attempt to joke. $\endgroup$ – val Mar 11 at 7:48
  • $\begingroup$ Who would use this mushroom building? What physical characteristics do they have? $\endgroup$ – De Novo supports GoFundMonica Mar 11 at 22:13
  • $\begingroup$ @DeNovo Assume a human would use this. I will add this detail into the question. $\endgroup$ – Liam Morris - Reinstate Monica Mar 11 at 22:54
38
$\begingroup$

Prototaxites!

Fossil mushrooms are rarities. Mushrooms are the fungal equivalent of flowers - spongy, ephemeral, disposable bodies generated to serve a reproductive need. You could not use mushrooms for wood.

The prototaxites were not mushrooms. They were large and substantial; up to 7 meters high.

prototaxite fossil https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/long-before-trees-overtook-the-land-earth-was-covered-by-giant-mushrooms-13709647/

They were not temporary structures like mushrooms, but perennial like trees. I deduce this from the presence of growth rings in the fossil prototaxites.

growth rings in fossil prototaxite
https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Transversely-sectioned-Prototaxites-fossil-This-overview-image-originating-from-a_fig1_51174561

The presence of rings means this structure endured shifts in growing conditions over time. This thing was there for many seasons. On earth, that means it weathered storms and wind: no small feat for an upright thing this size.

There is an analogous modern fungus: the bracket fungus aka "shelf fungus".

shelf fungus

The shelf is also a spore-making body but a permanent one, and it also can persist many seasons, laying down growth rings with the seasons. Bracket fungi are as tough as wood.

https://herbarium.usu.edu/fun-with-fungi/shelf-fungi

Woody shelves may be several years old. They add a new layer of spore tissue every growing season. The old layer is covered by the new one. These layers look like growth rings in a tree. One author reported counting 37 rings. Ten layers may mean the shelf is 10 years-old if there is only one growing season (spring). If there are two growing seasons per year (spring and fall), it may only be 5 years-old.

One of the largest shelves weighs 300 pounds…

Woody shelves are impossible to break with your hands and difficult to cut. This toughness results from the kinds of hyphae (filaments) that are used to construct the shelf. Easily crushed mushrooms are made of thin-walled hyphae. Some of the hyphae in woody shelves are thick-walled and the hyphae are interwoven making them tougher. They resist tearing or splitting because there are no planes to split along in the tissue.

A bracket fungus large enough could be used for wood. The medium to small ones are used to make real shelves and durable beads.

It is reasonable to assume the prototaxites were of a composition similar to modern bracket fungi and so suitable for use as a wood equivalent. A redwood-sized Prototaxite could be hollowed out and used as a dwelling.

$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ It might also be interesting to note that fungi produce chitin for their cell walls, the same stuff that makes up the exoskeleton of arthropods such as insects and crustaceans - meaning it has the potential to be a very tough material indeed. $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Mar 11 at 8:55
  • $\begingroup$ can prototaxites and giant bracket fungus float on water? is it possible to build ship with it? (i dont know is this allowed here or i should make new question. tell me if it violate the rule here im still new and doesnt know much about the rule) $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Aug 18 at 3:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Li Jun - go ahead and post that as a new question. People here seem to love fungus questions. $\endgroup$ – Willk Aug 18 at 14:25
17
$\begingroup$

Buildings made out of mushrooms already exist, so I would say that the plausibility is very high. The vegetative part of the fungus, called mycelium, can be fashioned into to "bricks" by growing them in brick shaped molds and adding in some corn husks. Using these "bricks" a builder can construct many different types of buildings.

$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

The thing about mushrooms is that they grow on decay; on dead wood, plant matter and organic waste. They require either the fuel of other plants, or the symbiosis with them. In the latter case, there would either have to be millennia of cultivation and harmony between the humans and mushrooms, allowing for enough food to be provided to the mushrooms to allow for them to grow and be relatively stable. Or, trees that are large enough to support mushroom tree-houses.

So to try and answer your question, I think growing house sized mushrooms is out of the question, especially with regards to their decay cycles and relative softness. However, mushroom mattresses growing on trees could be a nice substitute.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Can you tell me more about these mushroom tree-houses and mushroom matresses? $\endgroup$ – Liam Morris - Reinstate Monica Mar 10 at 19:18
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Handwaving - perhaps the culture's burial ceremony involves becoming part of the house by direct burial within the walls of the mushroom ? Feeding the house and providing a form of symbiosis between human and home. $\endgroup$ – Criggie Mar 12 at 2:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Criggie this is just the kind of pro-mushroom symbiosis i was looking for! benefits all parties, providing food, waste management and presumably some sort of spiritual nourishment. you're sure to take good care of your house when nana is in the walls! $\endgroup$ – Aloysius Anise Mar 13 at 7:54
  • $\begingroup$ @AloysiusAnise It gives a whole new meaning to “Home is where the heart is” :P. Whilst i’m here, can you edit your post to explain more about the tree-houses and matresses? $\endgroup$ – Liam Morris - Reinstate Monica Mar 13 at 8:03
3
$\begingroup$

It doesn't have to be mushrooms, but it can be one. Prototaxites have just been mentioned. One would go further and propose a giant prototaxite species which survived to this day. Another option is a plant akin the Myrmecodia (ant-plant) which swells its trunk to accommodate the ants which inhabit it.

The giant plant may have a trunk wide enough to harbor large cavities. Some cavities may be merged into larger "rooms" by carving-out some of the wooden material and leave walls strong enough to support the "house". Some of the material is left to make the inner walls and stairs.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ plot twist, we are the ants $\endgroup$ – Fred Stark Mar 12 at 5:10
1
$\begingroup$

If we look at the example of houses built from within trees as a baseline, it's certainly possible in terms of space. Now, of course mushrooms are softer and more compressible than trees are, so we'd have to assume it'd take time to compact before being ready to move in furniture and the floors would need to be thicker to keep from ripping, but given sufficient size requirements are met, that shouldn't be an issue, especially if you only need one room. The biggest problem is the Spores though. If you have a large mushroom, when it distributes its spores, they will go EVERYWHERE. Improper hygiene (even if it's just cleaning with water that happened to get contaminated by the spores) is a sure way to break out in an all-over fungal infection. The areas all around your home would be flush with mushrooms. If the mushrooms are edible, it'd be an excellent food source to look into, but the mushroom spores and reproductive process introduce too great of a risk to truly feel safe and comfortable unless you have some industrial fungicide on-hand.

Tree House

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Having read about mushroom farming, I never heard that mushroom spores could colonize a person. Are you sure, and could you find a source that describes that happening to someone? $\endgroup$ – piojo Mar 11 at 13:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Mushrooms are fungi. Getting sick from an animal is an extreme rarity too, but when it happens we get The Plague. Exposure ups the likelihood of infection. Even if the chance of spread is normally next-to-null. mayoclinic.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/fungal-infections ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/820538 $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Mar 11 at 13:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for that. The second link was about spores getting in your lungs, which means mushrooms can make you sick the same way as breathing dust or welding fumes. Not an infection. I couldn't read the first article (paywalled), but it appears not to be about mushrooms. Certainly some yeasts can infect people, but mushrooms are not yeasts (nor molds). What I know about mushroom farming: you generally don't give them protein. It's not good mushroom food. They grow on foresty things like wood or grain. $\endgroup$ – piojo Mar 11 at 13:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This page lists a few mushrooms it claims can be pathogenic to mammals: botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/wong/BOT135/LECT09.HTM $\endgroup$ – piojo Mar 11 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ Axel Erlandon, a Swedish farmer, may have attempted to build a living house like the one you presented. The difference is that his structures are skeletal posts and beams, not carved structures. Check this one en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axel_Erlandson $\endgroup$ – Christmas Snow Mar 11 at 18:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.