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Fungal mycelium
Microscopic view of a mycelium.  This image covers a one-millimeter square.
Another microscopic view of a mycelium.  Numbered ticks are 230 µm apart.
Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) growing on coffee grounds
Mycelium as seen under a log

Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae. The mass of hyphae is sometimes called shiro, especially within the fairy ring fungi. Fungal colonies composed of mycelium are found in and on soil and many other substrates. A typical single spore germinates into a homokaryotic mycelium, which cannot reproduce sexually; when two compatible homokaryotic mycelia join and form a dikaryotic mycelium, that mycelium may form fruiting bodies such as mushrooms. A mycelium may be minute, forming a colony that is too small to see, or it may be extensive:

Is this the largest organism in the world? This 2,400-acre (9.7 km2) site in eastern Oregon had a contiguous growth of mycelium before logging roads cut through it.Estimated at 1,665 football fields in size and 2,200 years old, this one fungus has killed the forest above it several times over, and in so doing has built deeper soil layers that allow the growth of ever-larger stands of trees. Mushroom-forming forest fungi are unique in that their mycelial mats can achieve such massive proportions.

Through the mycelium a fungus absorbs nutrients from its environment. It does this in a two-stage process. First, the hyphae secrete enzymes onto or into the food source, which break down biological polymers into smaller units such as monomers. These monomers are then absorbed into the mycelium by facilitated diffusion and active transport.

Mycelium is vital in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems for their role in the decomposition of plant material. They contribute to the organic fraction of soil, and their growth releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. Ectomycorrhizal extramatrical mycelium, as well as the mycelium of Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi increase the efficiency of water and nutrient absorption of most plants and confers resistance to some plant pathogens. Mycelium is an important food source for many soil invertebrates.

"Mycelium", like "fungus", can be considered a mass noun, a word that can be either singular or plural. The term "mycelia", though, like "fungi", is often used as the preferred plural form.

Sclerotia are compact or hard masses of mycelium.


One of the primary roles of fungi in an ecosystem is to decompose organic compounds. Petroleum products and pesticides, typical soil contaminants, are organic molecules, i.e. they are built on a carbon structure. This means that these substances present a potential carbon source for fungi. Hence, fungi have the potential to remove such pollutants from the soil environment, unless the chemicals prove toxic to the fungus. This biological degradation is a process known as bioremediation.

Mycelial mats have been suggested (see Paul Stamets) as having potential as biological filters, removing chemicals and microorganisms from soil and water. The use of fungal mycelium to accomplish this has been termed mycofiltration.

Knowledge of the relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and plants suggests new ways to improve crop yields.

When spread on logging roads, mycelium can act as a binder, holding new soil in place and preventing washouts until woody plants can be established.

Since 2007, a company called Ecovative Design has been developing alternatives to polystyrene and plastic packaging by growing mycelium in agricultural waste. The two ingredients are mixed together and placed into a mold for 3–5 days to grow into a durable material. Depending on the strain of mycelium used, they make many different varieties of the material including water absorbent, flame retardant, and dielectric.[2]

Fungi are essential for converting biomass into compost, as they decompose feedstock components such as lignin which many other composting microorganisms cannot.[3] Turning a backyard compost pile will commonly expose visible networks of mycelia that have formed on the decaying organic material within. Compost is an essential soil amendment and fertilizer for organic farming and gardening. Composting can divert a substantial fraction of municipal solid waste from landfill.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stamets, Paul. Mycelium Running, Ten Speed Press,U.S.A. 2005 (p. 45, caption to figure 60)
  2. ^ Kile, Meredith (September 13, 2013). "How to replace foam and plastic packaging with mushroom experiments". Al Jazeera America. 
  3. ^ "Composting - Compost Microorganisms". Cornell University. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Epstein, Eliot (2011). "Industrial Composting: Environmental Engineering and Facilities Management". CRC Press. ISBN 143984531X. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mycelium — Please support Wikipedia.
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58 news items


Wed, 16 Apr 2014 13:30:18 -0700

The Mycelium Bitcoin Wallet has a new feature available that will make the acquisition and sale of bitcoin a whole lot easier for existing users. Dubbed Local Trader, the feature will allow bitcoin buyers and sellers who are local to each other to ...

Otago Daily Times

Otago Daily Times
Thu, 24 Apr 2014 10:31:22 -0700

Below the soil surface exists the main body of the mushroom in the form of a web of cells known as a mycelium. These mycelial networks can extend over large areas of soil, providing unseen connections between a host of plant and tree species.
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:45:00 -0700

Among the recipients is a farmer in Higganum looking to fill 1,000 logs with many more mushrooms. Mushroom growers drill about 50 holes in a log, and implant something called "spawn," or mycelium. Rick Baxley grows his mushrooms outdoors and in logs, ...
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 10:02:16 -0700

Potter successfully germinated spores of several species of fungi, and made drawings of the mycelium at different stages. © Frederick Warne & Co., 1966. A Beatrix Potter study of insects, including a stag beetle (top left) and a bloody-nosed beetle ...
New Zealand Herald
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 14:11:15 -0700

The VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland has an idea: a biological filter made of mushroom mycelium mats that could recover as much as 80% of the gold in electronic scrap. The processing starts the same way: by crushing the electronic waste into ...
Chicago Tribune (blog)
Sat, 19 Apr 2014 17:53:43 -0700

You also may see a thick or thin layer of white to gray webbing, called mycelium, covering the matted grass. These fibers are the part of the fungus that expands under the snow. As the grass dries, the mycelium will dry out and disappear, leaving the ...
Journal of Commerce
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 22:03:45 -0700

They have found uses for mycelium, the wispy thread-like roots of mushrooms. The mycelium is grown in moulds in a dark place for three to five days. Then it is heated to stop the growth. The result is a structural board called Myco Boards, which can ...
Sun, 20 Apr 2014 19:36:21 -0700

"I've never tried (buying and using one of morel growing kits), but you are more likely to get morels if the morel mycelium (filaments of the fungus) are there in the soil," he said. "But you could do the same thing with morel wash water.” But buying ...

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