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Shiitake mushrooms are classified as a fungus.  In order to be considered a fungus the organism must be heterotrophic.  This means they do not make their own food.  The Shiitake mushroom plays an important role in its environment in decomposing dead organic material.  The fungus usually grows on  trees that have broad leaves.  Lentinula edodes is most commonly found on chestnut trees.

White rot and brown rot are two different classifications of decomposing fungi.  Lentinula edodes is known as a white rot fungus.  White rot fungi are capable of degrading lignin and brown rot fungi are not.



The Shiitake mushroom  here is found on oak wood.  Through the process of extracellular digestion, it will be able to decompose this tree.


Photo Copyright: Clive Shirley

An Out of Body Experience

When one thinks of digestion they commonly think of it as an internal process.  For the Shiitake, and other fungi, food is first digested outside the body.  This special type of digestion is known as extracellular digestion.  The fungi carry out extracellular digestion because most molecules from their food are too large to diffuse across their plasma membranes.