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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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89 news items


Tue, 07 Oct 2014 12:09:53 -0700

Mycelium, the creators of Mycelium Entropy, the USB paper wallet generator that funded on IndieGoGo has released the long awaited 2.0 version of its popular Android mobile wallet. Mycelium's mobile app was already popular for its local exchange finder ...

The CoinFront

The CoinFront
Wed, 08 Oct 2014 08:45:00 -0700

The long-awaited release was beta-tested over the summer by over 200 testers, and after some tweaking, Mycelium feels comfortable releasing their “biggest and most significant wallet update” to the world.

The CoinFront

The CoinFront
Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:03:45 -0700

Mycelium has launched their beta release version of Mycelium 2.0 HD, the latest update to their popular Bitcoin wallet software. It went live in the Android Play Store as of this morning. Mycelium is soliciting input from the community over the next ...


Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:18:45 -0700

Bitcoin Core developer Gavin Andresen took to Reddit today to engage the community in an ask-me-anything (AMA) session that tackled a variety of topics both silly and serious. In his post kicking off the session, the 47-year-old chief scientist at the ...

San Francisco Examiner

San Francisco Examiner
Sun, 21 Sep 2014 20:56:15 -0700

For Ross, the preferred method is to grow reishi mushrooms, then mold and bake their mycelium. He grows the mushrooms on "anything that grows under the sun," from coconut husk fiber to corn cobs, soybean shells, walnut shells, paper pulp or hemp.

Mother Earth News

Mother Earth News
Fri, 17 Oct 2014 18:52:30 -0700

We try to find choke points where there is confluence, where we can have the maximum effect by putting mycelium at these points. Then we are able to capture contaminants and ameliorate the impact downstream of those choke points. The water tends to ...

GreenBiz.com (blog)

GreenBiz.com (blog)
Tue, 21 Oct 2014 01:48:45 -0700

Ecovative's Mushroom Packaging is made from agricultural byproducts and mycelium, or mushroom "roots." Credit: Ecovative. A large global electronics company with sustainable supply chain goals was very interested in Mushroom Packaging for protective ...
Oroville Mercury Register
Sat, 18 Oct 2014 13:03:45 -0700

Elsewhere, an early October shower gave real fungi mycelium a jolt of rain-expectation under a neighborhood citrus tree, and a little showing of white mushroom tops pushed from the earth. The protruding white splotched caps opened like umbrellas ...

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