earlier underworld myth. One that predates human heroes. One that even predates trees. 500 million years ago plants drifted from the sea to the shore to dryland. These are not the plants you would recognize today. They had no root systems. Luckily enough, fungi were already intimate with the soil and over tens of millions of years acted as surrogate root systems for the plants that would slowly develop into the forests and food-bearing crops we depend on. While plants have their own rhizomatic networks they are still only able to access water and nutrients within a tight radius. Mycorrhizal systems that enter into their rhizomes act to extend these networks, connecting older trees with kin, and uniting diverse arrays of vegetal, fungal, and microbial communities. Ninety percent of plants depend on their fungal helpers. The connection is so strong that endophytic fungi are vertically transferred to the newer generation through seeds. When the fungi live in the very seed that will become a tree, their role lives somewhere between midwife, parent, lover, and friend, helping the tree to tap into the rich nutrients of the soil and the community of other beings that constitute an ecosystem. Put more simply, fungi taught plants how to enter into the underworld. And it was only in the underworld that plants learned how to make community. Community that bridges differences: in species, in age, in biosemiotic language. Fungi taught plants that survival isn’t about individuation. It’s about becoming radically involved. So involved that you let your friends into your very genetics, into your root systems.
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