From the ancient mushrooms of fairy tales to the modern-day bread mold, fungi have been a part of our lives since time immemorial. But why are they not considered plants?

This article will explore the key differences between fungi and plants, from life cycles to reproductive strategies, and explain why fungi are so distinct from their botanical counterparts. Let’s take a closer look at why fungi are not plants—and what makes them so special.

Definition of Fungi and Plants

Fungi and plants have distinct differences. Fungi are eukaryotic organisms without chlorophyll and can’t use photosynthesis to produce food. Fungi get their nutrients from organic matter like dead plant material or living organisms.

Fungi reproduce by releasing spores into the environment. Plants, on the other hand, are eukaryotic organisms that can photosynthesize their food. Plants reproduce using flowers and seeds and have specialized root systems to absorb water and minerals from the soil.

Key Differences between Fungi and Plants

Fungi and plants have differences. Fungi cannot make their own food through photosynthesis like plants can. Fungi absorb energy from organic matter. Plants have root systems that absorb water and minerals. Fungi break down organic material for reuse, while plants provide oxygen.

Some fungi form symbiotic relationships with plants. AMF improves nutrient status of plant roots. Certain fungi produce metabolites that protect plants from herbivores or pathogens. AMF-colonized plants tolerate drought better. Fungi and plants play important roles in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

Life Cycles

The life cycle of an organism is the series of changes it goes through from birth to death. Depending on the species, these stages can be radically different; for example, some species of frogs may begin their lives as eggs that hatch into tadpoles and eventually become fully-grown adults.

Some insects go through multiple larval stages before reaching adulthood, while all organisms undergo growth, development, and reproduction during their life cycles. Knowledge of these processes is crucial for comprehending ecosystem dynamics and species interactions.

Reproductive Strategies of Fungi and Plants

Fungi and plants have diverse ways of reproducing. Fungi can reproduce sexually or asexually. Mold spores are released into the environment for new colonies. Mushrooms reproduce sexually through spore production. Plants rely on pollination by wind or animals.

Some plants self-fertilize and produce viable offspring without help from another individual of the same species. Fungi help plants grow better by sharing nutrients and forming beneficial relationships. This is important for agriculture.

Growth Requirements of Fungi and Plants

Fungi and plants have different growth requirements. Fungi can grow in soil, decaying organic material, and living organisms. Some fungi, like AMF, benefit plants by colonizing their roots and exchanging metabolites.

Plants require sunlight, specific temperatures, and essential minerals to photosynthesize and grow. They can live for decades or centuries. Understanding how fungi and plants interact is important for successful agricultural management.

Metabolism Differences between Fungi and Plants

Why are Fungi not Plants

Metabolism is one of the key differences between fungi and plants. Fungi obtain their energy by breaking down organic matter, while plants use photosynthesis to create energy from sunlight. This means that fungi can thrive in environments with limited light, while plants need sufficient amounts of light to survive.

Fungi can survive in dark and damp environments like caves and deep soil since they do not need sunlight. They release enzymes that break down complex organic molecules into simpler forms for energy. Plants, on the other hand, have a more complex metabolic process involving photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose. Knowing the metabolic differences between fungi and plants is crucial in studying ecosystem interactions and effective management.


Morphology is the study of the form and structure of living organisms. It is an important part of biology that helps us understand how different species are connected and how their structures evolved to adapt to their environment.

Studying the shape, size, and color of plants and animals can give insights into their evolution and ecology. Morphology has two categories: external and internal, including organs and systems. It also helps understand species distribution and genetic variation. Morphology is important for understanding biological processes.

Structural Differences between Fungi and Plants

Fungi and plants are both eukaryotes with membrane-bound nuclei. However, there are key differences in their structures. Fungi can be unicellular or multicellular, while plants are always multicellular. Unlike plants, fungi lack chlorophyll and do not conduct photosynthesis to produce food.

Fungi decompose organic material for energy. Fungi form symbiotic relationships to break down organic matter into nutrients. Fungi release minerals back into the soil for other organisms to use. Certain fungi help improve the nutrient status of plant roots. Some fungi produce metabolites that influence plant growth. Fungi are structurally different from plants, but they play important roles in ecosystems and biodiversity.

Cell Wall Composition of Fungi vs. Plant Cells

Fungal cell walls are made of chitin, while plant cell walls are made of cellulose. Chitin is tough and resists digestion, protecting the fungi from pathogens and giving it shape.

Plant cell walls are rigid and strong due to the cellulose microfibrils that form a mesh-like network. This network provides structural support and protects the plant from mechanical forces and environmental stressors. Both types of cell walls are important for cell protection.

Absorptive Structures of Fungal Species vs. Plant Species

Fungi and plant species have distinct structures that aid in their absorption of nutrients. Fungal species absorb nutrients via absorptive hyphae, which are specialized branches of the fungal mycelium that contain enzymes to break down organic matter.

Hyphae can enter soil and wood for nutrients. Plants absorb nutrients through root hairs. Some fungi form symbiotic relationships with plants or algae, called mycorrhizae. Fungi send hyphae into the plant or algal partner for exchange. Both fungi and plants need absorptive structures for survival.


Fungi are a unique form of life in that they are not classified as either plants or animals, but rather exist in their distinct kingdom. Fungi have many beneficial roles in the environment, such as breaking down organic matter, helping with nutrient cycling, and forming symbiotic relationships with other organisms. In particular, fungi play a key role in arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) relationships with plants and algae.

The AM fungus lives on the roots of its partner, increasing surface area for minerals through cortical cells. In exchange, the plant or alga provides the fungus with secondary metabolites from photosynthesis. This partnership helps both partners maintain healthy nutrient status and tolerate environmental stresses. Fungi play a vital role in the development and survival of plants and algae through these partnerships.

Interaction with Other Organisms

Fungi are highly interactive with other organisms, forming relationships to ensure their survival. Fungi can form mutualistic partnerships with other organisms, such as plants and algae. In these partnerships, the fungus colonizes the roots of its partner and helps promote the uptake of minerals by increasing the surface area of roots through cortical cells.

The partner fungus receives secondary metabolites from photosynthesis in exchange for its service. This is known as an arbuscular mycorrhizel (AM) relationship, which is crucial for both partners’ nutrient status and environmental stress tolerance. Fungi also help with nutrient cycling, breaking down organic matter, and providing soil structure support. Their interactions with other organisms provide essential benefits, making fungi an important part of our environment. This is our final reason fungi are not plants: the best available molecular evidence demonstrates fungi are more closely related to animals than plants.

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