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A fungus is any member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds, as well as the more familiar mushrooms. The Fungi are classified as a kingdom that is separate from plants and animals. The discipline of biology devoted to the study of fungi is known as mycology, which is often regarded as a branch of botany, even though genetic studies have shown that fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants. Fungi reproduce via spores, which are often produced on specialized structures or in fruiting bodies, such as the head of a mushroom. Abundant worldwide, most fungi are inconspicuous to the naked eye because of the small size of their structures, and their cryptic lifestyles in soil, on dead matter, and as symbionts of plants, animals, or other fungi. Fungi perform an essential role in the decomposition of organic matter and have fundamental roles in nutrient cycling and exchange. They have long been used as a direct source of food, such as mushrooms and truffles, as a leavening agent for bread, and in fermentation of various food products, such as wine, beer, and soy sauce. Since the 1940s, fungi have been used for the production of antibiotics, and, more recently, various enzymes produced by fungi are used industrially and in detergents. Fungi are also used as biological agents to control weeds and pests. Many species produce bioactive compounds called mycotoxins, such as alkaloids and polyketides, that are toxic to animals including humans. The fruiting structures of a few species are consumed recreationally or in traditional ceremonies as a source of psychotropic compounds. Fungi can break down manufactured materials and buildings, and become significant pathogens of humans and other animals. Losses of crops due to fungal diseases or food spoilage can have a large impact on human food supplies and local economies. Despite their importance on human affairs, little is known of the true biodiversity of Kingdom Fungi, which has been estimated at around 1.5 million species, with about 5% of these having been formally classified.

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Rhodotus palmatus, the only known Rhodotus species
Rhodotus is a genus in the Physalacriaceae family of fungi. It is a monotypic genus and consists of the single mushroom species Rhodotus palmatus, known in the vernacular as the netted Rhodotus, the rosy veincap, or the wrinkled peach. This uncommon species has a circumboreal distribution, and has been collected in eastern North America, northern Africa, Europe, and Asia; declining populations in Europe have led to its appearance in over half of the European fungal Red Lists of threatened species. Typically found growing on the stumps and logs of rotting hardwoods, mature specimens may usually be identified by the pinkish color and the distinctive ridged and veined surface of their rubbery caps; variations in the color and quantity of light received during development lead to variations in the size, shape, and cap color of fruit bodies.

The unique characteristics of R. palmatus have made it difficult for taxonomists to agree on how it should be classified, resulting in an elaborate taxonomical history and an extensive synonymy. First named Agaricus palmatus by Bulliard in 1785, it was reclassified into several different genera before becoming Rhodotus in 1926. The familial placement of the genus Rhodotus within the order Agaricales has also been subject to dispute, and the taxon has been transferred variously to the families Amanitaceae, Entolomataceae, and Tricholomataceae. More recently, molecular phylogenetics analysis has helped determine that Rhodotus is most closely related to genera in the Physalacriaceae.

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Lactarius vinaceorufescens 58725.jpg
Lactarius vinaceorufescens, commonly known as the yellow-staining milkcap or the yellow-latex milky, is a poisonous species of fungus in the Russulaceae family. It produces mushrooms with pinkish-cinnamon caps up to 12 cm (4.7 in) wide held by pinkish-white stems up to 7 cm (2.8 in) long. The closely-spaced whitish to pinkish buff gills develop wine-red spots in age. When it is cut or injured, the mushroom oozes a white latex that rapidly turns bright sulfur-yellow. The species, common and widely distributed in North America, grows in the ground in association with conifer trees. There are several other Lactarius species that bear resemblance to L. vinaceorufescens, but most can be distinguished by differences in staining reactions, macroscopic characteristics, or habitat.

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Hypholoma fasciculare LC0091.jpg
Credit: Jörg Hempel
A clump of Hypholoma fasciculare, a common woodland mushroom.

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