Mushrooms 101

The spore.

Starting with the most basic structure – the spore.  Spores to the naked eye are invisible individually but a cool trick you can do at home, and is often used in the identification of mushrooms is a spore print.  By placing a freshly cut mushroom gill side down and putting some form of protection(cup or glass) over top you will eliminate air flow and allow the spores to drop directly down onto the surface.  Now depending on the color you’re looking for you might want to consider using different colored papers.

Spore print on aluminum foil
Shiitake mushroom hyphae

Hyphae into Mycelium.

Hyphae are single strands of fungus roots whereas Mycelium is a mass of hyphae.  Mycelium is the most referred to name when talking about mushrooms but if you grow them you often can observe individual hyphae growing amongst substrates.  Mycelium does not get the reputation mushrooms do – but rest assured they are doing all work.  The mycelial network is where all the magic happens and it is far larger than mushrooms themselves – just underground.  There’s not to many places on earth to avoid mycelium.

Stalk & Cap

The actual ‘mushroom’ we see above ground is the most common view of fungus and fungi around us.  Mushrooms forming are also said to be ‘fruiting’ because it is the fruiting or reproductive body just like a tomato with seeds.  A stalk forms which then opens to gills with contain millions if not billions of spores ready to set out once the wind blows.  Temperature, humidity, and light all play a part in the role of the right timing for mushrooms to fruit.

Quick fact:  Mushrooms breathe oxygen and exhale CO2 just like us.  When we grow them indoors we provide much needed aeration in order to keep CO2 levels from climbing.

Tree fruiting
Shiitake mushrooms growing on hardwood medium.
Shiitakes uncurling their caps before spore dispersal.
Top species are 3782 and bottom is WR46.
Shiitakes are wood loving species of mushrooms and normally grow on oak.
Shiitakes are 'gilled' mushrooms are have a center stalk called the 'stipe'.