What is Mycelium? (Everything you need to know)

Avid mushroom cultivators know the importance of mycelium in growing their desired mushrooms. The vegetative body of fungi that generates mushrooms and, in some circumstances, fungi species that never form a mushroom is known as mycelium. Mycelium is like a plant's root system, while the mushroom is like a blossom.

This article holds enough information to guide you in discovering mycelium and how you should manage it properly to ensure a profitable mushroom harvest.

How do mushrooms grow?

While mushrooms can only develop from spores or tissue culture, all blooming plants grow from seeds. Each mushroom releases thousands of spores into the surrounding area, each carrying genetic material particular to that spore. Growing from spores is thus like planting a lot of apple seeds because each one will be unique and not all turn out the same.

The phylum Basidiomycota contains the traditional cap and stem mushrooms with which we are most familiar. These mushrooms all develop their spores outside of club-like cells called basidia, including jelly fungus, puffballs, and porcini. The phylum Ascomycota has several mushrooms, some of which may appear weird. Consider cups, corals, and morels. Ascomycetes create their spores inside sac-like cells referred to as asci.

Here are the growing stages of a mushroom:

Fungal Spores

The spores, reproductive cells that resemble a plant's seeds, start fungal growth by "sprouting" mycelium.

A mushroom spore is expelled from the fruiting body of another fungal organism as a means of reproduction. This is similar to seeds that sprout into plants or grow into trees. Spores can germinate quickly under ideal circumstances, but it usually takes two to three weeks. When germination starts, mycelial hyphae threads spread out and expand, ingesting and digesting the nearby nutritional sources, or "substrate," as food for subsequent development.


Mycelium, a real living thing, appears as a complex network of filaments that resemble roots. The main "plant" component of the mushroom is mycelium.

Mycelium comprises tens of thousands of fine, intertwined filaments that are only one cell wall thick. These highly active cells perform various vital tasks, including acting as the fungal organism's immune system. Mycelium is the main "body" stage of existence in the fungal organism's life cycle, whereas spores exist to sprout mycelium, and fruit bodies come and go for reproduction.

The "flower," often referred to as the fruiting body, is supported by mycelium as a seasonal response to environmental stimuli. Mycelium is also known as the "mother plant" of a perennial, which blooms periodically and then perishes. In contrast, the flower, or in this case, the fruiting body, lives for many years.

Fruit body

The fruit body is a transient reproductive stage that occurs numerous times over the fungus's life.

The fruit body is the immediately recognizable, above-the-surface "fruit" that comes to mind when we think of a mushroom. Like a plant's flower, or "fruit," generates pollen or seeds to reproduce and spread the species, the mushroom fruit body is the reproductive stage that generates spores. As long as the environmental conditions are met, a mushroom fruit body is a transient but recurrent component of the plant's overall life cycle, just like flowers and fruit are.

Are mushrooms and mycelium similar or different from each other?

As I discussed above, there are differences between mushrooms and mycelium. These two refer to two distinct growing stages of mushrooms.

The web of threads, or mycelium, from which mushrooms grow is a member of the fungus kingdom. Depending on the surrounding conditions, not all mycelia produce mushrooms; however, all mushrooms originate from mycelia.

Mycelium, a network of web-like structures of its hyphae, secretes enzymes that help the organism digest its food sources. Some mycelia cover tens of thousands of acres, while others are minuscule. Fields, woodlands, and heavily forested environments are where you'll find the most mycelia.

Mycelia produce mushrooms as their fruit, and each mycelium has an entirely different effect on the kind of mushrooms that grow. Numerous environmental elements, such as the presence of a sizable food source for mycelia, humidity, and temperature, affect their presence.

On the other hand, the visible part of the mushroom is what we know of as the fruiting body. Most people picture a mushroom as having a fruiting body, the portion that emerges from a tree or the ground and may be picked.

High amounts of beta-glucans, triterpenes, and other unique substances like cordycepin can be found in the mushroom's fruiting body. The active elements of supplements derived from fruiting bodies are listed right on the container because this can be demonstrated analytically.

Does mycelium produce edible mushrooms?

Mycelium is responsible for producing the mushrooms that we see in the woods and department stores today.

Mycelium is multicellular and can form larger structures, most frequently known as mushrooms. In addition to producing tiny molecules, mycelium gently and expertly assembles them into intricate structures undetectable to the human eye.

As the mycelium develops, a dense web of lengthy microscopic fibers forms, which spread across the substrate like a network of superhighways. The mycelium moves on to the next phase, creating a mushroom, once it has finished creating its network ultimately.

Now, the mushrooms that mycelium produces could be edible or non-edible and even toxic. This begs the question, "How can you identify which mushroom is safe to eat while which one should be avoided?"

The straightforward response is that you cannot differentiate between them without first recognizing the specific mushroom you have discovered. You must correctly identify the fungus and be sure of what it is before consuming it because some poisonous mushrooms can be fatal.

Here are a few guidelines for you to know to avoid ingesting poisonous mushrooms:

  1. Steer clear of mushrooms with red caps or stems. While not all red varieties of mushrooms are harmful, staying away from anything red on mushrooms will be helpful if you are a beginner.
  2. Never select mushrooms that are dead or decaying. Check for hardness, a fresh appearance, and wholesomeness before purchasing.
  3. Bitten mushrooms are unsafe.
  4. Mushrooms with wrinkly or crooked crowns should be avoided.
  5. Don't give in to the alluring aroma of mushrooms. Mushrooms with a pleasant aroma may be poisonous! Avoid Omphalotus olearius, famous as the "Jack O' Lantern mushroom," and little brown mushrooms. This orange-gilled mushroom is lethal. (Insert the link to the article regarding Jack-O-Lantern mushrooms)

What are the different types of mycelium?

Mycelium is divided into three basic types based on how they feed on other creatures.

  1. Mycorrhizae: This type of mycelium gets nutrients from living plants but in a mutually advantageous association.
  2. Saprophytic: The mycelium of this kind uses dead organic materials to acquire nutrition.
  3. Parasitic: This refers to a mycelium that thrives parasitically on a living host.

The Mycorrhizae

Most domesticated plants thrive in symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi; some even need them for optimal growth.

  1. The fungus increases the plant's surface area by attaching to the plant's root. The plant now has access to nutrients it otherwise would not have had.
  2. The plant converts solar energy into sugar through photosynthetic processes, giving the mycelium the glucose it needs to grow.
  3. Examples are Chanterelles, boletes, and morels. (Insert link for the article about morel mushrooms)

The Saprophytic

The vast majority of fungi live on their own. Without them, the forest floor would eventually turn into a mountain of fallen objects.

  1. Growing out of downed logs or heaps of leaves, saprophytic fungi consume the decaying remains of plants.
  2. They decompose organic materials, creating nutrient-rich soil as a result.
  3. Most edible and therapeutic fungi are saprophytes.
  4. Shiitake, Turkey Tail, Oyster, Reishi, and Lions Mane are among the examples.

The Parasitic

Despite damaging their host, the parasitic fungus can indirectly help other species by producing the dead organic matter they need to survive.

  1. Fungi that are parasites feed by stealing nutrients from living things.
  2. Plants are susceptible to severe damage, including injury and death.
  3. In ecological systems, parasitic fungi are the primary causes of tree die-offs.
  4. By clearing the way for new growth as they destroy older trees, they aid in the succession of the forest.

How do you grow mycelium?

Anyone interested in growing mycelium outside of a garden can start with only a few easy steps. Check them out below:

By plug spawn

Mushrooms grown on logs or stumps demand more setup time and labor than those grown indoors, but they will produce considerably more extended time than indoor growing kits.

  1. Fill the little drill holes in the log or stump with the mycelium-infused wooden cylinder known as plug spawn.
  2. Use wax to plug holes.
  3. The mycelium will inoculate the wood over the following six months, and mushrooms will start to fruit.

By indoor growing kits

Indoor mushroom bags are the easiest way of growing and require very little training. Here are the general steps to take:

  1. Open the kit and store it somewhere cool and wet, like the bathroom.
  2. Spraying mycelium every day will keep it moist.
  3. Mushrooms will start to fruit in 7–10 days.
  4. Harvesting should go on for several months.

Although fascinating and successful, these techniques prevent the mycelium from doing what it does best, which is repairing and enhancing the habitat it lives in.

On Wood Chips or Straw

Mushroom cultivation on straw or wood chips has several uses in the garden. Companion planting using infected wood chips or straw has the following advantages:

  1. Straw and wood chips make excellent mulch because they slow soil erosion and add to the soil's organic content.
  2. Retention of water is increased.
  3. Plant roots get easier access to nutrients.

For those who are keen to use wood chips or straw, you can follow these simple steps:

  1. Invest in mycelium spawn.
  2. Mycelium should be broken up and distributed throughout the straw/woodchips.
  3. Your garden should be covered with inoculated mulch.

What is the fastest-growing mycelium?

When we say "fastest-growing," we are referring to those that are easiest to cultivate. I can think of three mycelia for this category.

Lion's mane mushrooms

Lion's mane is among the easiest mushrooms to grow because it develops quickly and bears fruit without being picky. Because it thrives at room temperature and grows well from little holes drilled in the growth bag, the mycelium for the lion's mane mushrooms requires less strict temperature control.

  • Growing season: All year
  • Location: Inside a mushroom fruiting chamber
  • Temperature: 15 - 20 degrees Celsius (59 - 68 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Humidity: Provide misting several times a day to achieve high humidity

Wine cap mushrooms

Wine cap mushrooms are simple to grow because they find the outdoors very accommodating for their growth. They grow aggressively and spread quickly, so your growing efforts will pay off greatly.

The mycelium for wine caps can thrive on various substrates, such as wood chips, sawdust, straw, and leaf litter, making them ideal for making a garden bed out of different substrates.

  • Growing season: Autumn and spring
  • Location: Outdoors using a partially-shaded growing bed
  • Temperature: Above 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Humidity: Maintain moisture by planting in a shaded spot, using hardwood chips or straw as the substrate, and periodically misting the plants with water.

Oyster mushrooms

These mushrooms may be considered the simplest and most straightforward to grow. Oyster mushrooms' mycelium grows well on various substrates, including free coffee grounds that you can generally get from a nearby cafe.

Additionally, they develop remarkably quickly with minimal effort on your part and are very resilient to competing microbes like blue or green mold. You can have some exciting experiences and try growing oyster mushrooms on a book because they are adamant.

  • Growing season: Year-round if grown indoors
  • Location: Any indoor growth chamber will do for a novice or at-home mushroom grower.
  • Temperature: 10 to 30 degrees Celsius (60 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Humidity: Provide the mycelium with 80 to 95% relative humidity or water sprayed at least twice every day

What mistakes should you avoid in growing mycelium?

Too much or insufficient moisture

Your growing mycelium may suffer if there is too much moisture present. One consequence is that standing water puddles rapidly become stagnant and promote the development of pollutants like mold. These undesirable microbes make the fungus fight for nutrients, which stunts its development. Additionally, they render whatever mushrooms you manage to grow useless.

On the other side, the mycelium will dry out and die without enough humidity. In addition, mushrooms contain a lot of water. They might develop cracked tops and become dry and brittle if they do not receive enough moisture as they grow.


To address insufficient moisture, give your substrate a thorough soak and squeeze off the extra water prior to adding your spawn. The substrate should keep enough moisture until fruiting if you grow mushrooms in an enclosed space like a unicorn bag or monotub. Then, during the fruiting stage, spritz your container many times each day or buy a humidifier.

If too much moisture is the problem, ensure your project has enough drainage and don't overwater it. Instead of soaking your substrate in more water than it can absorb, use little and often.

Wrong climate

Different mushrooms naturally grow in various places and, as a result, prefer various climates. A tropical species will probably not grow well in a cold climate, and the opposite is true. For outdoor mushroom producers, this knowledge is essential.


Outdoor cultivators should learn which mushrooms will thrive in their region. Growers who operate indoors have more control over their surroundings. As a result, they may cultivate a more expansive variety by employing tools like a seedling warming mat to offer extra warmth as needed.

Wrong substrate

On various substrates, including wood, straw, coco coir, and compost, mushrooms may be grown. However, choosing the perfect substrate for your mushrooms is just as crucial as picking the appropriate environment. Some species are pickier than others and won't grow unless you use the right media for them. For instance, plants that prefer wood, like reishi and lion's mane, cannot thrive in soil.


Make sure you supply the preferred substrate for the type you wish to cultivate by researching it. You might also consider adding additional nutritional supplements to increase your yield.

Faulty spawn

This mistake can occasionally lead to failed mushroom cultivation. Potential problems include spawn that is already infected or arrives too slowly and perishes. Spawn might also go wrong if it is not used right away. In any case, improper spawn means your project will fail immediately.

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