What is a mushroom?

Photo By Wayne Slape

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Mushrooms can be quite mysterious. They seem to suddenly appear out of now where and just as quickly disappear.

Because of the mushrooms mysterious nature, a lot of misinformation is spread in the way of stories, myths and superstition. This has led to social and cultural fear called Fungophobia, a term coined by British mycologist William Delisle, which spread to Australia and America during British colonisation1.

What is a mushroom?

A mushroom is sexual organ of a much larger organism called fungi. The main purpose for the mushroom is to produce spores for sexual reproduction2.

As a mushroom grower I like to consider the mushroom as a fruit and you will often see it referenced as a fruiting body. This is because the mushroom has more functions then just sexual reproduction3. The mushroom is the fruit of the fungi, just like an apple is to an apple tree.

What is a Fungus?

Mycelium Colonising Straw

The fungus is considered the whole organism. This organism is made up of a collective vegetative network of branching filaments called mycelium3.

In the case of Saprophytic fungi (fungi that live on dead organic material), the mycelium grows through and feeds on the dead material , braking it down into compost, to be recycled into the ecosystem4. It is natures recycling system.

When the conditions are right, the fungus forms a mushroom, made up of tightly packed mycelium3.

So what is the myceliums collective vegetative network made out of?

The mycelium network is made up of hyphae which are microscopic3. The individual strands maybe appear to be visible as threads. However, this is not the case, as they have just become interwoven to form cords.

Hyphae anatomy

All the hyphal cells are joined together but are share their cell contents, via a little hole called a septal pore5.

At the ends of the hyphae network are what are called hyphal tips. It is at these tips where the organism uses a structure, called the Spizenkorper, as a chemical factory6.
As the hyphae are only one cell thick, the organism is not capable of producing an enclosed feeding system. The hyphae excrete compounds from the Spizenkorper, to digest food externally, and then absorb it into their cells6.
Not only does the Spizenkorper excrete compounds to digest food, it also excretes compounds, that protect them from disease and to interact with the ecosystem6.

We provide products of the saprophytic fungi group. Saprophytic (feeding on dead or decomposing matter) fungi are safe to grow and beneficial to the garden. They can increase soil nutrients , improve beneficial organism populations, reduce nematodes and other parasites and provide you with delicious food..
Saprophytic fungi grow well on woody substrates which gives them an advantage over other organisms.

 

1. “Fighting Fungophobia (or Mycophobia) …the fear of mushrooms“, Temperate Climate Permaculture. Retrieved 15/02/2018

2.”Radical Mycology, Atreatise On Sereing & Working With Fungi”, Chthaeus Press 2016, Author Peter McCoy, pg 9 Basidiomycota

3. “Mycelium Running, How Mushrooms Can Help Save The World”, Ten Speed Press 2005, Author Paul Stamets, Chapter 2 The Mushroom Life Cycle.

4 “Mycelium Running, How Mushrooms Can Help Save The World”, Ten Speed Press 2005, Author Paul Stamets, Chapter 3 Mushrooms in their Natural Habitats.

5.”Radical Mycology, Atreatise On Sereing & Working With Fungi”, Chthaeus Press 2016, Author Peter McCoy, pg14 From the center to the periphery

6.”Radical Mycology, Atreatise On Sereing & Working With Fungi”, Chthaeus Press 2016, Author Peter McCoy, pg15 the mystery of myceliation