Fungi: Amazingly diverse, but neither plant nor animal
Looking at one’s old school books, university notes or lab work not only allows you to reflect on past events in your life, it can also raise questions. Why, for example, did I have to examine mushrooms in the Botany practical? Why are fungi dealt with in Botany classes or featured in botany textbooks? They aren’t plants after all. But they aren’t animals either. So, what are they? Let me tell you: they are the most interesting of all life forms! —>—>
A nervous system in plants?
During the time I worked for the educational TV channel “NDR Das Dritte” and produced a film on carnivorous plants with the title “Pflanzen, die von Tieren leben” (Plants that live off animals), I was of course aware of Charles Darwin’s inspiring and careful studies, published in 1875, on what was then called “insectivorous plants”. I also knew of the experiments by one of the scientific giants of India, namely Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, who in 1926 had unequivocally shown that plants not only generate action potentials similar to those known from the nervous systems of animals, but that these plants transmitted the electrical impulse over considerable distances via their vascular bundles (of which as we now know, the phloem plays the part of a “nerve”). However, a great deal more information especially on how those sensitive plant species like the Venus flytrap Dionaea muscipula, sundews of the genus Drosera, or Mimosa spp., etc. react physiologically to mechanical or thermal stimulation is now available than it was at the time when I produced my film. —>—>