The Amateur Mycologist #2 - What Is A Mushroom?
These posts are not for foraging. They are intended for entertainment and educational purposes only. These posts are not a field guide nor comprehensive in any way - their accuracy is not assured in any way. Do not eat wild mushrooms unless you are a professional or have a wealth of personal experience with a specific species. Do not make any foraging decisions based on these posts.
These Posts Contains No Information Regarding Edibility Or Toxicity
What is a mushroom?
What actually is it? You may never have considered the question before. The answer might surprise you.
A mushroom - every single mushroom you have ever seen - is, essentially, a penis.
I mean that literally. The purpose of a mushroom is to shoot up out of the ground and spew the air around it with tiny, seed-like things called Spores.
The picture above is a photo of a few mushroom spores taken at high magnification. These spores are the sole means of mushroom procreation. Unfortunately for the mushrooms, they are very tiny and most of them will not succeed in making new mushroom life. But fortunately for the mushrooms, not only they tiny, there are a bazillion of these little bastards. In that sense, spores are not unlike the sperm in the "mushroom as penis" metaphor.
So, if the mushroom is just a penis spewing its load of spores all over the place to make more mushrooms, then we have to ask ourselves: whose penis is it?
It's this guy's penis. ^^^^^^
That white, silky stuff is called mycelium, and every single mushroom you've ever seen, all of those fungal dildos, belonged to one mycelium or another.
I want to be completely clear now. Mycelium is the fungal organism. Let's get that even clearer...
Mycelium is the fungal organism!!
When we see a mushroom of any kind, we are looking at an off shoot of the larger fungal creature, which is the bizarre, networked web of white strands that is mycelium. Mycelium is the stuff which lives beneath the dirt and leaves of a forest and under your grass. Mycelium does not exist just produce mushrooms - in a sense mushrooms are an incidental by product of the mycelium's existence.
Mycelium's primary goal is to survive, and it does so by devouring organic material, usually dead stuff, and sending its spores around the world in the wind. In this, mycelium is crazy successful.
Studies have shown that mushroom spores can reach as high as 36,000 feet into the air and still survive. At that height, the wind moves fast and the spores can move over 8,000 miles across the face of the earth in a week.
8,000 miles is the distance from South Dakota to Thailand
The result of this incredible system of reproduction is a worldwide network of mycelium and the presence of nearly identical mushroom species thousands and thousands of miles, and indeed oceans, apart. Mycelium is what makes your mushroom pizza and mushroom soup possible. This apparently indistinguishable white silk produces all of the very different mushrooms on earth.
Now you know the basics.
TLDR: Mushrooms are the dicks of a much much larger creature living underneath us everywhere we go. The point of mushrooms is to release spores into the air - the fungal equivalent of sperm - and send them adrift, sometimes over gigantic distances, in order to make more mushrooms.
It gets more complicated than that, but this is all you need to know for now. You're almost ready to begin identifying specific species of mushroom. However, there is still one more post we need to make to explain how we will be making our identifications. That will be coming up next. I will link to this post and the next one on every Mushroomer post from now on, because you may want to go back in the future and get a refresher course.
See you soon!
The only 100% way to avoid being hurt by a wild mushroom is not to eat a wild mushroom. These posts are not field guides - they are intended for the mycology enthusiast, not the forager. If you want to forage mushrooms there are professional resources available to that end online as well as local mycological societies all over the world which you should connect to for guidance.
Source of mycelium image_mycelium_in_petri_dish_on_coffee_grounds.JPG)