How Mushrooms Help Us
Although we may associate fungi with rotting food and fungal diseases, these incredible organisms play a beneficial role in our lives, from the plants we grow to the foods we eat to the medicine we take.
Improving the Soil
Fungi help break down organic material into fertile soil, perfect for growing plants, including food crops.
A Food Source
Mushrooms provide a nutritious food source to humans and animals, including squirrels, deer, slugs, and flies. Some mushrooms are edible for humans, while others are extremely poisonous.
American TV chef Julia Child, whose kitchen is on display in the Smithsonian's National Museum of american History, was famous for her cooking tip: "Don't crowd the mushrooms!"
Molds, like mushrooms and yeasts, are a type of fungus.
Mushrooms as Medicine
The antibiotic penicillin, which helps treat bacterial infections, was developed from the mold Penicillium chrysogenum (also known as Penicillium notatum). Scottish bacteriologist Sir Alexander Fleming discovered the wonder drug in 1928. Since then,
Left During World War II, more than 20 American drug companies joined the U.S. government's campaign to mass-produce penicillin to meet the needs of the military.
Right Penicillin's yellow color and its amazing ability to prevent life-threatening bacterial infections earned it the nickname "yellow magic."
See a sample of Fleming's Penicillium mold in the American Stories exhibition on the 2nd floor of the National Museum of American History.
Erected 2019 by Smithsonian Gardens, funding provided by the Smithsonian Women's Committee.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Science & Medicine • War, World II.
Location. 38° 53.497′ N, 77° 1.892′ W. Marker is in The National Mall in Washington, District of Columbia. Marker is at the intersection of Constitution Avenue Northwest (U.S. 50) and 14th Street Northwest (U.S. 1), on the right when traveling east on Constitution Avenue Northwest. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 201 14th St NW, Washington DC 20004, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. From Workers to Environment (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Anise hyssop (about 300 feet away); Public Art for a Modern Museum
Credits. This page was last revised on January 8, 2021. It was originally submitted on January 8, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 48 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on January 8, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.