This is the first part in our series about mushroom colonization and spawning.
Colonization, put simply, is the process by which a fungi grows in its early stages, before fruiting bodies (mushrooms) appear. As amateur microscopists and mycologists, developing an understanding of this process can greatly enhance the overall experience of studying psilocybin mushroom spores under our microscopes—it’s amazing to consider than a tiny, microscopic spore is packed with so much sheer potential!
But there’s a lot more to colonization than meets the eye at first glance, so let’s begin the series by defining a few important terms and learning more about the process of colonization itself in order to set the stage for future installments.
➢ Mushroom Spawn means inoculated with mycelium growth of the fungi before being transferred onto a substrate where mycelium can grow.
➢ Mushroom Spawn has mycelium growing in a mushroom culture ready to inoculate. Spawn means inoculated with mycelium growth of the fungi before being transferred onto a substrate where mycelium can grow.
Defining Terms: Mushroom Colonization, Spawning, Mediums, and Substrates – What’s it All Mean?
Newcomers to the microscopy/mycology hobby quickly learn that there’s a lot of terminology and jargon that goes around in these circles—and unfortunately, sometimes things can get confusing. We’ll try to clear things up now, at least in the context of colonization.
Saying “mushroom colonization” is technically something of a misnomer; mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi, and are thus the result of successful colonization and maturation. Mushrooms themselves don’t do the colonizing, because that’s the work of the mycelium, which we’ll learn more about in the below section.
The term spawning effectively means the same thing as colonization. Spawning, or colonizing, means that the mycelium is successfully growing within an environment. That substance which makes up that environment—like dirt, a fallen tree limb, or perhaps one of the many substances that mushroom farmers use, such as grain—is called the substrate, growing medium, or a combination of these terms, e.g., spawning substrate or colonization medium.
The important thing to remember is that in order to spread or grow (colonize) fungi needs an environment rich in moisture and nutrients (a suitable substrate).
How Fungal Colonization Works in The Wild and in Mushroom Farms
Fungal colonization works more or less exactly the same in the wild as it does in a farm environment; the advantage farmers have is that they can (hopefully) give their fungi the ideal conditions to grow in, which can result in better mature specimens.
As we covered in much greater detail in our extensive mushroom life cycle Q&A article, the life of a fungus begins as a spore. Under the right environmental conditions, the spore can develop into mycelium, which will then produce fruiting bodies—mushrooms. The mushrooms themselves will release spores, and the cycle begins anew. This is a rough overview of how mushrooms reproduce.
The point in that cycle where mushroom spores to mycelium begins to form is what we call colonization. In the second part of this series, we’ll explore what environmental and nutritional requirements are necessary for colonization to take place.