Mycelium: Underground Forest Steward

| April 2, 2013


Of all the animals, trees, plants and other organisms living on earth, many scientists consider the  largest single living thing in the world to be a huge Armillaria ostoyae mycelium located in Oregon state. This massive fungal organism spans over an area of approximately 2200 acres, and is estimated to weigh more than 600 tons.

A mycelium is formed of tiny, hairlike filaments called hyphae, which spread throughout the soil, interconnecting and interweaving with one another to form a thin woven mat beneath the surface of the forest floor in most all woodland and other wild areas.

External Digestion

Unlike animals which have stomachs and digest their food internally, the mycelium excretes enzymes and other chemicals externally which help to break down its food from without into a form that the mycelium can then absorb directly into itself via its hyphae.

Soil Stabilizer and Regenerator

Mycelium helps to hold soils in place, preventing erosion. And because it is perpetually breaking down a variety of organic material in the form of things like leaf litter, wastes, debris, wood, and the dead bodies of animals and plants, this function of facilitating and accelerating the decomposition of rotting matter simultaneously fosters the creation of humus, which is the foundation for new soil.

Sentient Biochemical-electro Communicator

Mycelium is in constant communication with itself, with the surface of the soil, and with the various forest organisms with which it symbiotically interfaces.

Paul Stamets claims that this perpetual communication and interaction between mycelium occurs on biological, chemical, and even electrical levels, and that as such, mycelium actually has sentience, and is aware in an intelligent way of itself and its surroundings.

Transference of Minerals and Nutrients

Scientific testing has confirmed that mycelium is able to detect mineral and nutrient deficiencies in plants via its connection with their roots, and that in response, the mycelium will draw the necessary minerals and other substances from one area of the environment and transfer them to the location where they’re needed by passing them across their complex network of interwoven hyphae.

Sophisticated Defense Strategies

Because the mycelium is constantly dealing with dying and rotting matter, which is full of bacteria, viruses and other fungi, some of which may be potentially pathogenic, the fungi have developed very powerful mechanisms and strategies to defend themselves from becoming infected by virulent microbes.

Because of its constant exposure to so many potentially harmful microbes the mycelium is able to generate from within itself substances that are antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial and surprisingly, even antifungal.

Powers of Immunity

Mycelium’s ability to create these sorts of substances, along with its capacities for transferring nutrients across its network and exchanging nourishment with the roots of plants, means that mycelium is integral to the health of any ecosystem in which it thrives, and that as such, serves as a key aspect contributing to the overall immune system of the forest.

Medicinal mushrooms are in most cases the fruiting bodies or reproductive portions of the mycelium. The same defense mechanisms and immune enhancing properties embodied by mycelium are conferred to its fruiting bodies, most all of which are tree mushrooms that sprout out of wood, both living and dead – be it from limbs, branches, tree trunks, or tree stumps.

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Category: Adaptogenic | Tonic Herbs, Bacteria, Fungi, Medicinal Mushrooms, Medicinal Mushrooms | Culinary, Minerals, Mycelium, Mycoremediation, Mycorrhyzal Fungi, Plant Health, Soil Ferility | Bioactivity, Soil Health, Soil Mineralization, Soil-Food-Web

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  1. Thank you for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday! :)