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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.

It is through the mycelium that 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]

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. 

External links[edit]

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

Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:45:00 -0700

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, which is a slow, labor-intensive process that starts in the coldest months of winter. "I was out in ...
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 06:09:48 -0700

It turns out if you smash a phone into powder and pass it through fungi roots, a.k.a. mycelium, the chemically engineered mycelium will basically be a magnet for the gold. “Heh heh, totally!” explain the scientists. “Hey, is that a dragon eating a ...
Gizmodo Australia
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 06:01:29 -0700

Finnish scientists at the VTT Technical Research Centre have figured out a way to filter out gold with biomats made of mycelium, the part of a fungi that lives underground. The first step is crushing the old phones into a fine powder. That powder is ...
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:00:53 -0700

Caroline Nolan (Stuart Middle School) placed second and was awarded the USDA award for outstanding research in the environmental category for her study of filtering agricultural effluent with fungal mycelium. Rohan Jakhete (Murray Middle School) won ...
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:03:45 -0700

Finnish scientists at the VTT Technical Research Centre have figured out a way to filter out gold with biomats made of mycelium, the part of a fungi that lives underground. The first step is crushing the old phones into a fine powder. That powder is ...
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 15:16:26 -0700

Joachim here describes a construction process and Acetobacter-derived material that is comprised of “mycelium blocks combined with a modified new bio-polymer”. I will note that here Joachim uses the term “bio-polymer”, not simply “polymer”; it is not ...
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:48:45 -0700

The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a biological filter made of mushroom mycelium mats that could recover as much as 80 percent of the gold in electronic scrap. Gold adhered to the biosorbents, such as fungal and algae biomass, ...
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 03:30:00 -0700

A man uses the Mycelium app on his phone to demonstrate how he can use BIP38 encryption to further protect his bitcoin and feel safe carrying a paper wallet with a private key exposed. Photo by: Megan Miller. A man uses the Mycelium app on his phone to ...

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