33 Pounds! Mother of All Mushrooms Discovered

A giant mushroom was recently discovered in China. (Image credit: YouTube screen grab from AP.)

China's Yunnan province is known as the "Kingdom of Mushrooms" for its rich diversity of more than 600 species of edible fungi.

But even the hungriest of mushroom fans might find this monster mushroom, recently discovered in Yunnan, a little hard to swallow.

The mushroom, a species that has yet to be identified, measures 37 inches (93 centimeters) across the top and weighs about 33 pounds (15 kilograms), according to Science World Report. [Magnificent Microphotography: 50 Tiny Wonders]

Fungi, including mushrooms, are neither plants nor animals and instead form their own group of living organisms that generally reproduce by spores and contain nuclei with chromosomes. Perhaps surprisingly due to their plantlike appearance, fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants.

China's mushroom industry is a multimillion-dollar operation, with sales equivalent to $44 million in 2005, according to The Diplomat. And some of the finest and costliest specimens, such as the rare Tricholoma matsutake mushroom — highly prized as a delicacy in Japan — come from Yunnan.

The giant mushroom discovered in China might not be safe to eat; many mushrooms are poisonous. Two women in California were killed recently after eating a soup made of toxic mushrooms.

On the other hand, there may be some therapeutic benefits to certain mushrooms. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University believe the hallucinogen found in "magic mushrooms" might someday help treat a variety of psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety and addiction.

It remains to be seen whether the massive 'shroom discovered in China is a record-breaking fungus for its species, but it certainly won't be the world's largest mushroom: In 1998, a giant honey mushroom (Armillaria ostoyae) was discovered growing underground in Oregon. The specimen is estimated to be some 2,384 acres (965 hectares) in size, and at least 2,400 years old.

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Marc Lallanilla
Live Science Contributor
Marc Lallanilla has been a science writer and health editor at About.com and a producer with ABCNews.com. His freelance writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and TheWeek.com. Marc has a Master's degree in environmental planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin.