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Fungi Decomposing a Log

This short video briefly examines a fallen oak log that is slowly being decomposed by saprophytic turkey tail mushrooms. 

Hickory Hills Park near Dysart, Iowa

Possible Guiding, Compelling and/or Anchoring Questions

  • What do fungi consume?
  • How do fungi eat?
  • How does this log compare to a living log? What differences do you see?
  • What kinds of places do you typically see any type of fungus?

Classroom Suggestions

  • This phenomena can be used to demonstrate the transfer of nutrients and energy from one organism to another. As the fungi grow, they are directly consuming the oak branch, making the branch softer and easy to crumble, and turning the nutrients and calories of the oak into more fungal tissue. 
  • Over the years, the nutrients will eventually be turned into fungal spores and blown away (amongst other forms of decomposition) causing the branch to disappear. 
  • Many fungi can be quite easily grown in the classroom. Edible kits for things like Oyster mushrooms can be purchased online cheaply. A variety of experiments can be designed to grow the fungi on various substrates like wood chips, food scraps, grass clippings, etc. By monitoring the mass of fungi/substrate, students can see the mass remains fairly stable even though the mushrooms grow considerably in size.

Related Resources

  • Saprophytic Fungi: General information about saprophytic fungi and how they differ from other types of fungus, especially disease causing fungi. 
  • I-MOLD Lesson Plans: A collection of activities and lessons developed by educators to teach about carbon/nutrient cycling and decomposition. 
  • Decomposition Mission: A very adaptable and complete series of lessons on decomposition. 

Iowa Core Alignment

Life Science
High School (9-12)
Disciplinary Core Idea
LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

Credit Info

Submitted by Craig Hemsath


Have you used this resource in your classroom? Do you have ideas for improvement? Share your ideas, experiences and feedback about this phenomena.

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