Mold is a living organism that belongs to the kingdom Fungi.
Are Fungi Plants?
Fungi are unique in that although some appear plant-like, they are neither plant nor animal. Plants from the Plantea kingdom are multicellular organisms, have chlorophyll and perform photosynthesis, the process by which they capture the energy of sunlight and use carbon dioxide from the air to make their own food.
On the other hand, mold is heterotrophic, meaning it cannot make its own food like plants do. Mold must gain nutrients by digesting other organic substances. Unlike animals, mold does not really ‘eat’ its food. Mold secretes enzymes that break down the food substance into smaller organic molecules that can then be absorbed. If you’ve ever grabbed a piece of moldy fruit, you may have felt the soft and mushy area that has essentially been digested.
Molds reproduce both sexually and asexually into multi-cellular forms. Molds are considered parasites since they are opportunistic organisms, and they have to be on or in their host to grow, live and reproduce. Mold is composed of thread-like filaments called hyphae. The hyphae then form a conglomerate, which is called a mycelium. You can think of this as like a grassy lawn. Much like individual blades of grass make up a lawn, many hyphae make up a mycelium. This explains its ‘hairy’ appearance.
Although mold itself has no mobility, its hyphae can grow quite long. This is the primary mode used by the mold to spread more quickly to neighboring organisms. When you see a strawberry in a container that has been engulfed by mold, you can observe the hyphae reaching to the adjoining fruits.
Other Members of the Fungi Kingdom
Mushrooms, mildew and yeasts are also classified in the Fungi kingdom.
- A mushroom is a fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. Their sores are produced on the gills and fall in a fine rain of powder from under the caps. A number of species of mushrooms are poisonous; some resemble certain edible species, and consuming them could be fatal. Eating mushrooms gathered in the wild is risky and should only be undertaken by individuals knowledgeable in mushroom identification.
- Yeast is a microscopic form of fungi that has just one round or oval cell. Yeast is not a sporing species, whereas mold produces spores. There are 1,500 types of yeast, most of which are found in the ocean. They reproduce asexually by budding or dividing into 2 or more nuclei. They are used in the production of ethanol, baking, bioremediation, probiotics and food additives or flavors.
- The main difference between mold and mildew is appearance. Both love moist, warm areas. Mildew is usually gray or white, smells musty, and generally grows on damp surfaces, like bathroom walls. It is also found on host plants like beans, corn, potato, tomato, rice and other plants. While mold grows in the form of multicellular filaments or hyphe, mildew has flat growth. It reproduces both sexually and asexually via the product of spores. Downy mildew starts as yellow spots that first become brighter in appearance and then change to brown. Powdery mildew is whitish in color and then slowly turns yellowish brown and then black. Mildew is more easily treated than mold.