Formidable Fungi: Part 1

26 January 2020

From the 30 January through to 26 April 2020, Somerset House will celebrate the marvellous mushroom in their exhibition Mushrooms: The art, design and future of fungi.

The contribution mushrooms make to ecosystems is well recognised today. But our love of this remarkable organism didn't really come about until the 19th century when Lewis Carroll's children's book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, brought the magic of the mushroom to life.

From the early 20th century onwards, fungi became a fascination for scientists and artists alike. No wonder, because the facts about fungi quite literally blow your mind!

There are 1.5 million species of fungi. All mushrooms are fungi, but not all fungi are mushrooms. The mushroom produces microscopic spores that are similar to pollen, sometimes numbering in the trillions.

Mushrooms are not plants, they are in fact more related to humans than plants. Fungi has, however, the power to determine our future through their symbiotic relationship with 90% of plants - plants provide fungi with food in the form of carbohydrates and in exchange, fungi are a source of water and nutrients.

An understanding of this mycorrhizal association between plants and fungi, where the fungus colonises the host plant's root tissues has changed ideas about how plants grow.


the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a network of fine white filaments (hyphae).

Fungi are stationary organisms; mycelium grow outwards to look for food. This subterranean predator's threads (hyphae), which is thought to be Tim Berners-Lee's inspiration for the world wide web, connects every aspect of life through a microscopic network or an infinite number of roads that lead everywhere. It has no boundaries.

It is this complex system and how this can be translated into design that has inspired us at London Flower School to create an installation for Somerset House's latest exhibition.

We challenge traditional notions of floristry and through our installation titled SPROUT that has been commissioned for Somerset House by Alter-Projects, we demonstrate how to develop a concept through craftsmanship.

SPROUT will be in situ in Seamen's Hall for one week from 30 January 2020.

'Mushrooms: The art, design and future of fungi' runs from 30 Jan - 26 April 2020 at Somerset House, London.