Mushroom Growing Environment

This is the second part in our series about mushroom colonization and it’s about mushroom nutrients and growing environment.

If you missed part one, go back and read it now to see how mushroom spawning works. See how mushroom spawning works. The first part of the series goes over important information which will be helpful moving forward, such as clearly defining all the terms we’ll be using, like colonization, spawning, mediums, and substrates.

In this entry of our mushroom colonization series, we’ll discuss the kinds of environments and nutrients fungi requires to start the colonization process in the wild. We’ll also answer one of the most common questions about fungi: can they really grow in complete darkness?

fungi colonization substrates

Mushroom Colonization in the Wild: Why Mushrooms Grow in Moist, Woodsy Environments

The classic image of a mushroom is a lush forested area—perhaps somewhere in the Pacific Northwest—and the mushroom itself is peeking its cap out of a pile of leaves or happily growing from the side of a fallen tree limb.

This stereotype can tell us a lot about the environments that fungi thrive in. While all species of fungi have differing “preferences,” it’s true that most mycelium loves to eat carbon-based nutrients. Lignin, cellulose, and other carbon-rich elements are commonly found on the forest floor, providing ample nutrition for the fungi to colonize. This is why so often on a hike you can spot mycelium growing in damp piles of leaves, under and on fallen, rotting tree limbs, and so on.

Moisture is also very important for the colonization process—as much as 50% of the substrate in nature might be moisture-rich content. Again, that classic image of the mushroom growing on the forest floor after a heavy rainfall makes sense knowing these details.

Is it True That Mushrooms Don’t Need Light to Grow?

Generally speaking, it’s true that mushrooms don’t require light to grow. Particularly not during the colonization phase, which often takes place in dark places anyway (like under the aforementioned pile of leaves).

Since fungi don’t have chlorophyll like plants, they don’t engage in photosynthesis. However, some mushrooms may benefit from a bit of sunlight, and we humans certainly benefit from mushrooms which have been exposed to the sun—it makes them rich in vitamin D.

Since most farmed culinary mushrooms are grown in the dark, they don’t have much vitamin D, but scientists may have found a solution.

➢ See our article about mushrooms and vitamin D for more information on this fascinating topic.

While You Wait for Part Three, Download Our Free Mushroom Spore eBook! In the next part of our series on fungi colonization, we’re going to discuss the “best” mushroom colonizers—the fastest, most aggressive psilocybe mushrooms in the world. Look out for it!

Fungal Taxonomy. In the meantime, why not learn more about the wonderful hobby that at-home scientists around the world are taking part in: amateur microscopy with a focus on exotic mushroom fungal taxonomy.