Parts of A Mushroom and Guide To Mushroom Parts
At Quality Spores, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about spores (of course!) and fungi as a whole, but we’ve spent precious little time really digging into the individual parts of a mushroom and the many mushroom parts and structure components. It’s time we do something about that.
Different Parts of A Mushroom And Their Function
The cap, the stem, the gills, veil, and all the other little parts of a mushroom that make fungi are so fascinating we’ll be going to be the topic of today’s entry on the blog.
Here’s what we’ll discuss together today regarding mushroom identification and mushroom anatomy:
- Revisiting the basics to set the stage: what exactly a fungi actually is
- How mushrooms survive and reproduce
- The 7 primary parts of a mushroom explained
- How mushrooms are identified through mushroom anatomy
- How to expand your knowledge of mushrooms at home
- Mushroom Science – Psychedelics
Feel free to skip the first section if you’re an experienced mycologist, professional or otherwise need everything you need to know about mushrooms, mushroom spores, and about mushroom anatomy and fungal morphology. Everyone else, the basics we’ll start with serve as an excellent primer for the rest of this post, so start there.
Back to Basics: What Exactly is a Fungus, Anyway And The Parts of Mushroom Fungi?
Mushroom Fungi and Mushroom Taxonomy
Mushroom Fungi Are Eukaryotic Organisms
Mushrooms are very much “their own thing”, even having been granted their own Kingdom in taxonomy (Kingdom Fungi, of course). Fungi are eukaryotic organisms, which mean that their “bodies” consist of cells which are enclosed by a plasma membrane (just like animals and plants).
Most people know about fungi from the mushrooms they’ve seen sprouting up out of the ground, perhaps in their back yard. These protrusions seem to come “from nowhere,” and one might even imagine that a seed of some kind grew up into the little toadstools that we see, but that’s not how mushrooms work.
Mycelium Is The Primary Part of Mushroom Fungi
Instead, a network of what’s called mycelium grows just under the surface of the ground, or often in other dark, damp places, like fallen tree logs or in moist piles of leaves. The mycelium is really the primary part of the fungi, because it can span many feet (and even miles in some cases!).
Mycelium looks a bit like a spider web, but thicker. Typically white in color, mycelium is made up of countless thread-like (or root-like) structures. Whereas plants gain their nutrition from sunlight through the process of photosynthesis, fungi gains nutrients through their surrounding environment via the mycelial network.
Under the right conditions, mycelium will produce what we call mushrooms. These fruiting bodies are the way that the fungus propagates itself with spores. We’ll learn more about that process in the next section.
How Mushrooms Work – Survival, Nutritional Needs, and Propagation Explained
Ethnobotanical Research and Education on Mushroom Parts
In large part, the same things that make humans work. One of our objectives is to provide ethnobotanical research and education on the different parts of a mushroom and their purposes and benefits.
Mushrooms need the following to survive and the role of mushrooms in nature:
Environmental nutrients: As discussed in the previous section, mushrooms absorb nutrients from the environment around them, as opposed to photosynthesis like plants. But what are those nutrients? Where do they come from?
The kinds of nutrients mushrooms need are proteins, nitrogen, sugar, fats, lignin, and so on. These are readily available in organic materials like decaying leaves, wood, insects, and even animals. Fungi are, in a way, the great cleaners of the forest—they eat up all the old things and make way for new things to grow.
Mushrooms don’t strictly need light, but it can help: While it’s true that mushrooms don’t need light to grow, it can, for certain species, be quite beneficial—at least from the human perspective.
For example, most farm-grown mushrooms, the kinds that you might find at the grocery store, are grown in complete darkness. This makes sense from the farmer’s perspective, because they don’t have to risk growing the mushrooms outside (where they might be eaten by pests or damaged by the weather), and it costs much less because they don’t have to provide an electricity-hungry lighting setup for their mushrooms to grow.
Vitamin D Deficiency and Mushrooms Facts Infusion
However, these kinds of mushrooms have far less vitamin D within them than the ones that would grow naturally in the wild. Since vitamin D deficiency is a big problem for a substantial portion of the human population, this is less than ideal. The good news is that we wrote a blog post about how researchers discovered a way to infuse mushrooms with vitamin D.
The correct temperature: As any mushroom farmer can tell you, many kinds of mushrooms have fairly strict temperature requirements in order to grow to their fullest potential. What exactly that temperature is depends greatly on the species of the mushroom itself, but typically falls somewhere between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Note that not all mushrooms will happily grow within that temperature range, and others might be able to survive and even thrive outside of it. That range is just a general rule of thumb for where most fungi prefers the temperature to be.
As an example, the popular culinary shiitake mushrooms typically are grown in temperatures ranging from 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit, because that’s their ideal temperature (and, for us humans, the range the yields the best results in terms of size and taste). However, shiitake mushrooms have been known to survive in the wild at temperatures as low as 40 and as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Growing Medicinal Mushrooms at Ideal Growing Temperature
If you’re considering growing culinary or medicinal mushrooms for yourself, a large part of the research you’ll have to do is figuring out your particular mushroom’s ideal growing temperature.
Finally, the final major component of mushroom survival is—you guessed it—moisture levels:
Plenty of moisture: Fungi are water-lovers. While the majority of them don’t want to be submerged, they certainly thrive in high-humidity environments. The exact level of moisture depends on the type of mushroom being cultivated (or where the mushroom will be found in the wild), but typically the substrate a mushroom is found in must have at least some degree of moisture.
A familiar example are button mushrooms: typically these kinds of culinary mushrooms are grown in compost or manure-based substrates. However, shiitake mushrooms thrive on wooden substrates and are often grown on moist logs. The logs are typically dry on the outer area of the bark, but if the bark is peeled away, the inside near the wood itself would be quite moist.
Despite the previous four requirements, from a cultivator’s perspective, mushrooms aren’t particularly difficult to grow. Many commercial mushroom farming operations, such as those for culinary mushrooms like button mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms, can be operated relatively inexpensively—you don’t need a lot of space or electricity to grow mushrooms.
The 7 Parts of a Mushroom
Of course there are more than seven main parts of a mushroom, but in this section we’ll take a moment to discuss what we believe to be the 7 primary parts of a mushroom.
Cap: The uppermost portion of the mushroom, easily recognized by most people as a convex, flat or curved protrusion. The top of the mushroom is to provide protection and typically has a different texture and feeling to the rest of the fruiting body.
Gills: Sometimes called pores, the gills rest directly below the cap of the mushroom. Visible to observers as straight “line-like” symmetrical structures, the gills are responsible for producing and releasing spores.
Stem: The stem of the mushroom is the long stalk-like portion, which is what originally pokes out of the ground or growing substrate. Stems can take many different forms; some are very short and squat, others are long and curvy.
Ring: The ring of a mushroom can be observed on the stem, just below the cap. The ring is a piece of fungal tissue which is a remnant of the veil, the part of the mushroom which was previously attached to the stem and the cap.
Volva: Not all mushrooms have visible volva. These are structures that grow at the base of the stem and tend to look spherical or bulbous in appearance. They don’t serve a direct purpose, rather, the volva are remnants of the original growth pattern of the mushroom when it was still coming up from under the ground or substrate.
Mycelium: The webbing, branch-like structure of a fungus which tends to exist just below the surface of the growing substrate and provides nutrition to the organism. See the previous section for a more detailed description of mycelium.
Hyphae: The hyphae are the structures produced by properly growing spores and mycelium. These tiny tendrils come out and serve to expand the size and reach of the mycelial mat so that it can continue to acquire nutrients for the rest of the fungus.
You’ll note that this list didn’t include the “part” of the fungi in our namesake: spores!
We felt that technically the spores weren’t part of the mushroom, at least not in the sense of being a part like the cap or stem. In the same way that you wouldn’t consider a seed to be “part” of a plant like a leaf or flower petal, right?
What is a Spore and The Best Place To Buy Quality Mushroom Spores Information?
Spores are the “reproductive” elements of a fungus, and are ejected from the gills. Spores are microscopic. The goal of the fungus is to eject the spores from the gills and, ideally, have them carried at least a short distance away by the wind, where they can land in a viable substrate and begin to take form.
How do spores take form? When provided with the proper nutrients, either naturally or in the case of a mushroom cultivator, the spores will begin to grow hyphae, the tiny threadlike precursors to mycelium. In time, mycelium will begin to take hold, and the life cycle of the fungus can begin anew.
Mushroom Identification and Mushroom Anatomy: How to Correctly Identify Mushrooms in the Wild
In the previous section, you learned all about the anatomy of a mushroom. This knowledge is instrumental if you have an interest in identifying mushrooms whether they’ve been cultivated or you happen to come across them in the wild.
Note that it can be very dangerous to ingest a mushroom if you aren’t absolutely certain that it isn’t poisonous! While the number of mushrooms in the world which can be fatal if consumed is actually much smaller than people tend to imagine it to be, many, many mushrooms can still make you incredibly sick—so be absolutely sure you know what you’re doing, or don’t do it at all.
Microscopic Spores of Fungi
At Quality Spores, our specialty is studying the microscopic spores of fungi, and so we tend to spend our time examining the world of the very small, so to speak. However, understanding what these spores would grow into in the wild is a fascinating way to observe the characteristics of spores under the microscope, and can give new understanding to amateur microscopists as to how those spore characteristics will develop later in the spore’s life.
With that being said, we’ve prepared a detailed guide on mushroom identification which may be of interest to amateur mycologists and microscopists.
Of course, the big reason mushrooms are different from regular mushrooms is that they contain a compound that can cause hallucinogenic effects when they’re consumed by humans and other mammals.
Amateur Microscopists: How to Study Mushrooms at Home Legally With Your Microscopy Hobby
If you’d like to learn more about mushrooms, one of the best places to start is with their spores. At Quality Spores, we carry a wide variety of spore syringes packed with 100% viable, authentic spore strains—a mushroom taxonomist’s dream come true!
The Microscopy Hobby by Amateur Microscopists
If you’re new to amateur microscopy hobby and interested in learning more about the world’s most interesting hobby, we invite you to download a free copy of our ebook here:
The Microscopy Hobby by Amateur Microscopists
If you’re new to the amateur microscopy hobby and interested in learning more about the world’s most interesting hobby, we invite you to download a free copy of our eBook here.