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Fantastic fungi

Words: Cecily Layzell

Photos: Eric Cho

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With a keen eye and macro lens, photographer Eric Cho captures a wonderful world of fungi that most of us miss.

Read the words ‘frosty bonnet’, ‘pixie’s parasol’ and ‘bleeding fairy helmet’ and you would be forgiven for thinking that you had stumbled across the catalogue of a niche clothing line. These are actually the names of fungi, photographed in stunning detail by Eric Cho.

The Taiwan-based pharmacist and photographer posts his shots on Instagram, where he has built a following of almost 43,000 fellow fungi enthusiasts. 

It’s easy to see the appeal. Unlike the plain white or brown edible mushrooms many of us are familiar with, the fungi in Cho’s photos – mostly extreme close-ups – are bright red and yellow, hairy, lacy like coral, flat, pointed, bioluminescent and often ethereally beautiful. 

This diversity reflects fungi’s varied and vital role in our ecosystems. There are an estimated 3.8 million fungi in the world. They break down organic matter, recycle nutrients in soil and are largely responsible for the rain in rainforests by attracting moisture to the spores they release into the air.

Fungi can be enormous – the biggest living organism on the planet is a fungal colony covering 10 square kilometres in the US state of Oregon – or they can be minute. 

Cho’s most popular photo to date is of the tiny Mycena subcyanocephala. Standing at roughly 0.1 cm tall, it is one of the smallest mushrooms in the world. He captured it in the early stages of growth, when the head glows a spectacular blue.

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