Mycelium: Exploring the Hidden Dimension of Fungi

What is mycelium?

You might have seen mycelium before as a fuzzy, white, green or even black mass growing on mouldy food, blue cheese or salami.

But out in the wild, mycelium is more than just the sign of an out-of-date sandwich: it’s a whole network of thin fungal strands called hyphae.

The mycelium has a similar function in fungi to the roots of plants.

The hyphae explore the soil or any other substrate where fungi are growing and secrete digestive enzymes onto their food source, often dead organic materials and sometimes living organisms.

These enzymes break down the matter into smaller parts that feed not only the fungi, but also their plant partners and many other organisms. They can also ferment foods, increasing palatability.

In fact, this process of breaking down organic matter is critical in maintaining healthy soil, recycling leaf litter, and providing food for the vast array of bacteria and animals that call soil home.