Around the Block: Mushroom Fields
Not mushroom to build here
Do you know which of Minecraft’s biomes is the hardest to find? Hint: it’s not the flower forest. Or the badlands. Or the deep cold ocean. None of those, in fact. It’s actually our biome of the week – Mushroom Fields.
The Mushroom Fields biome was originally called Mushroom islands, and it became a part of the Minecraft universe in November 2011 as part of Java Edition 1. .0.0 – making the biome just under ten years old.
It’s rare for two reasons. First because the chances of it forming are pretty low. But also because it usually generates as a single island totally surrounded by ocean – and most players don’t spend a lot of time in the ocean, so they don’t come across it very often.
You’ll recognise a mushroom fields biome instantly when you come across it – there’s no grass at all. Instead, the surface of the ground is covered with mycelium, a network of fungal matter which constantly releases tiny spores into the air. One thing that’s neat about mycelium is that you can use it to grow mushrooms at any light level. Normally mushrooms refuse to grow in bright sunlight on dirt, but here they’ll do so quite happily.
Growing on this mycelium, you’ll find lots of red and brown mushrooms, as well as huge mushrooms which tower over the landscape like trees. Wandering in between the stems of these mushrooms are a unique creature – the mooshroom, which makes this biome its home. Milk a mooshroom and you’ll get – what else? – mushroom stew.
Otherwise, you’ll find the mushroom fields a strangely barren, alien land. The only creatures that spawn other than the mooshrooms are bats, though sometimes you’ll find wandering traders passing through. It’s the kind of place where it’s easy to survive, but hard to thrive.
There’s no equivalent to mushroom fields in the real world – no place exposed to the sun, wind and rain where mushrooms grow and plants don’t. But you might not be aware of the enormous role that fungi play in our ecosystems below the surface.
For example, mycologists (mushroom scientists) have long known about the importance of fungi in breaking down dead matter and turning it into fuel for the next generation of plants. But we’re only just learning about another role that fungi play – in our forests, every tree is connected to its neighbours by fungal networks that are used to share water, nutrients, carbon and sometimes even substances to help defend against pests or disease. This is sometimes called the “wood wide web” and it’s a highly active area of research right now.
So next time you’re strolling through a forest – either in Minecraft or the real world – take a moment to think about the huge fungal networks below your feet that make it all possible.
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- Duncan Geere