Spore’s the pity: how Fantastic Fungi flags up man’s abuse of nature

The team behind a new documentary full of incredible footage of the secret life of mushrooms explain how fungi could help us stave off future pandemics

Watching the anemone stinkhorn sprout from the soil is a wondrous – and terrifying – thing. Emerging from a pod that looks like a truffle, the mushroom unfurls half a dozen arms, all a throbbing scarlet, like a collection of tongues. Each of these is forked and, across their stems, a series of black sticky lumps pop up like rotting barbecue. It’s supposed to smell something awful too.

The uncanny blooming of the Aseroe rubra is one of many transfixing moments in Fantastic Fungi, a crowdfunded US documentary made by Louie Schwartzberg, an affable old hippie and pioneer of time-lapse photography. It stars Paul Stamets, a trailblazer in the popularisation of mycology, the study of fungi, and bursts with footage revealing the secret life of mushrooms. It also seeks to usher the viewer into a seductive world where fungi are the answer to some of mankind’s biggest questions.

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