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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 (see carbon cycle). 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 some pesticides (typical soil contaminants) are organic molecules (i.e. they are built on a carbon structure), and thereby present a potential carbon source for fungi. Hence, fungi have the potential to eradicate such pollutants from their 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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1963 news items

The Australian

The Australian
Fri, 03 Jul 2015 09:57:08 -0700

“The mycelium of the fungus grows within the root itself,” he says. “And some of the hyphae grow out into the surrounding soil, extending the root surface available and enhancing the uptake of water and nutrients such as phosphorus.” Above ground, the ...

The Independent News

The Independent News
Sat, 13 Jun 2015 04:03:45 -0700

Fresh mushroom mycelium, or mushroom spawn, can be bought online from many sources, but the healthiest, most robust mushrooms we've ever grown have been with mycelium spawn from the man who wants to save the world with mushrooms, Paul ...


Thu, 02 Jul 2015 12:52:30 -0700

The white mycelium that cause thatch collapse are easily seen in this photo of a turf sample from a diseased patch. Credit: College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State. "So, back in 1998, I graduated and thought I was done with this fungus problem and ...

SobreBitcoin.com (Comunicado de prensa) (Registro) (blog)

SobreBitcoin.com (Comunicado de prensa) (Registro) (blog)
Tue, 09 Jun 2015 00:23:24 -0700

Con la última versión liberada por el equipo de Mycelium, la cartera Bitcoin para dispositivos móviles permite realizar transferencias SEPA hacia nuestro banco directamente desde nuestro terminal. Con esta nueva versión se añaden también ...

Bitcoin Magazine

Bitcoin Magazine
Thu, 02 Jul 2015 11:56:15 -0700

The bitcoin wallets in the report include Coinbase, Blockchain.info, Mycelium, Darkwallet, Airbitz, Armory, Electrum, Bitcoin Wallet and Multibit Classic. According to Daniel Krawisz, the goal of OBPP is to “draw attention to privacy issues in the ...

Bitcoin Magazine

Bitcoin Magazine
Sat, 14 Mar 2015 07:48:45 -0700

Among them, the people behind Mycelium have stood out as consistent creators of quality products. Their Bitcoin Wallet is one of the most widely used mobile wallets and its built-in Local Trader system has been operating for almost a year now, offering ...


Mon, 29 Jun 2015 04:03:33 -0700

Every year, the museum gives one emerging architect the opportunity to build an experimental structure. Last year we saw David Benjamin's The Living, built a tower made of mycelium (mushroom) bricks. Jaque's COSMO is similarly inspired by biology.


Sat, 16 May 2015 05:09:33 -0700

Mycelium made an unexpected announcement on May 8 — an introduction to a new project called Mycelium Gear, which is a direct, zero-fee payment processor for merchants. Bitcoin users no longer have to worry about providing their personal information to ...

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