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What is Mycelium? How Mushrooms Grow


I love this little guy. For one thing, he’s shiny. Another, he’s tiny. Another, he’s growing out of the side of a small piece of fallen tree bark. And finally – check out that mycelium at his base! WHAT IS MYCELIUM? Specifically let’s look at those white filaments visible at the bottom of the mushroom, that spans the bark like a faint, haphazard spider-web. Mycelium can sometimes be referred to as the “roots" of mushrooms. They resemble roots, and descend from the base of a mushroom into the ground or woody substrate. But in fact – what few people know is that these white filaments are the ACTUAL fungal organism itself! That’s right – mushrooms are just the “fruiting bodies,” or reproductive organs, of fungi. Mushrooms are merely the tip of the iceberg, with the majority of the organism living underground in the form of mycelium.

A mushroom’s sole purpose is to spread spores so that the mycelium – the fungus itself – can survive. When fungi are ready to reproduce, thousands of the filaments that form the mycelium pull together to create a mushroom. That mushroom develops spores which are released into the air giving the fungus a chance to reproduce.

Water is the primary catalyst for fungal growth and low saturation equates to dormant mycelium. Though winter is fast approaching and temperatures are dropping, the late rain is just now coaxing our traditional fall mushrooms into appearance. The substrates on which mushrooms grow are becoming increasingly saturated, prompting fungal activity.

Nature is amazing!

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