Crystal Falls is “Home of the Humungous Fungus”, perhaps the world’s largest and oldest living organism. It covers 38 acres beneath an Iron County forest near the Wisconsin border. It is believed to be 1,500 to 10,000 years old and weigh about 100 tons - about the same as an adult blue whale. It is the species called Armillaria Bulbosa and the mushrooms it produces are commonly called “honey mushroom.” The mushroom is the only edible part of the fungus. Armillaria bulbosa is very common, occurring in hardwood forests in North America, Europe and Japan.
The fungus was discovered by Myron L. Smith and James B. Anderson, both of the university of Toronto. They came across the fungus while doing research for the U.S. Navy in 1988. When Johann N. Bruhn, a research scientist with Michigan Technological University in Houghton, wrote an article on it in the Journal of Nature in April of 1992, scientists were deluged with inquiries from the United States, Canada, and Britain.
Although everyone wants to see the “Humungus Fungus” for themselves, it is mostly underground except for tiny offshoots that poke through the surface in the fall, edibles commonly known as button or honey mushrooms. People are generally disappointed if they actually go to the site looking for the big mushroom.
“The fungus is an intergral part of the ecosystem, feeding on decayed wood and producing carbon dioxide essential for the process through which plants generate life-giving oxygen” said Johann N. Brunn during a guided tour of the area. “Without organisms such as this, it wouldn’t take long before life on earth would cease.”
Although the “Humungus Fungus” is actually located in Mastodon Township, the Crystal Falls Business Association, compiled of business owners in both the City and Township of Crystal Falls, saw an opportunity to draw tourism to the area and established the “Humungus Fungus Festival”.
The fungus made the national news and even the “Late Night with David Letterman” show picked up on the fun with the top ten “facts” about the fungus as:
Came out of hiding to appear as character witness in Gotti Trial.
Bill Clinton once tried to smoke some of it.
Has vanity plate: “Fungus-1”
Some polls show it running neck and neck with Jerry Brown.
Elvis once had staff try to bulldoze it onto a 40-acre pizza.
Section of it used to make William Shatner’s hairpiece.
Might be an old YMCA they forgot to disinfect.
Believed to be smarter than Quayle.
Tastes a little like chicken.
The fungus has also been featured on the side of a U-Haul van.
The local merchants have “cashed in” on the fungus by selling Fungus Fudge, Fungus Burgers, and Fungus Tee Shirts.
Soon to be a part of a documentary on the Crystal Falls area, the Humungus Fungus is alive and well in the earth south of the City.