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What is Mycelium and What Does it Have to Do with Mushrooms?

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Everything! Mycelium is known as Earth’s original technology. But let’s start with what it is. Mycelium comes from the Greek word mykes, which refers to fungi. Mycelium is a root-like structure of a fungus consisting of a bundle of branching, sort of looks like fur, but it’s actually hypha (branching filaments).

You may have seen mycelium in fields and heavily wooded areas; the same places mushrooms bloom; because mushrooms are to mycelium, what a flower is to a seed. Mushrooms are born from mycelium

Where Does Mycelium Come From

Mycelium has been on Earth longer than trees, going back millions of years. In fungi, hyphae (plural) are the main mode of vegetative growth known as mycelium. Hyphae is born from fungus; one of the oldest and largest groups of living organisms, through the hyphae comes mycelium. Britannica Encyclopedia says that fungus originally comes from:

“Fungi have ancient origins, with evidence indicating they likely first appeared about one billion years ago, though the fossil record of fungi is scanty. Fungal hyphae evident within the tissues of the oldest plant fossils confirm that fungi are an extremely ancient group.”

Garden Culture Magazine says: “The ecosystem and plants do not exist without fungi.” 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says: Fungi are an important part of soil biodiversity, and this diverse group of organisms can help tackle global challenges, including climate change and hunger. Fungi are closely interlinked with vegetation and carbon and nutrient cycling. As a result, they are major drivers of soil health and carbon sequestration, among other ecosystem functions.”

How Does Mycelium Grow  

Credit: Incredible Mushrooms

Mycelium grows by releasing enzymes from the tips of the hyphae of the mycelium, to digest the surroundings and then absorb the nutrients. You see, mycelium eats small molecules of food, like sugar from things like plants. They basically feed off of anything organic to survive and grow. 

As they grow, the cells eventually branch and continue to branch as it grows to build a vast, filamentous mycelial network, which communicates with the entire ecosystem. This is why mycelium is considered original technology. The National Forest Foundation says:

Mycelium composes what’s called a ‘mycorrhizal network,’ which connects individual plants together to transfer water, nitrogen, carbon and other minerals. German forester Peter Wohlleben dubbed this network the ‘woodwide web,’ as it is through the mycelium that trees ‘communicate’.”

Mycelium and Mushrooms

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of mycelium. While most plants/ vegetables/ fruit grow from seeds, mushrooms do not; mushrooms grow from mycelium. Mycelium is generally underground until it sprouts above ground as a mushroom. 

Credit: The Art of Healing

The bottom of mushroom caps hold spores, the brown rigid area of the mushroom cap. Spores, when dispersed by air or water, germinate and create mycelium; and the cycle continues.

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