The mushroom anatomy is often overlooked by fungi enthusiasts. They know that mushrooms are healthy and good for immunity but usually don’t bother to learn more about the overall makeup of fungi.
Some people may find the anatomy of mushrooms boring and leave the research and discovery to scientists. However, knowing the different parts of a mushroom is actually interesting. Do you know that mushrooms are a species of their own? They belong to the fungi kingdom. And learning about their whole anatomy can make you a wiser consumer.
There is a wide range of mushroom products on the market. But, not all are using the best parts of the mushrooms that yield so many benefits. By knowing which parts of the fungi are essential for your health, explore the anatomy of fungi, and understand the mushroom life cycle. You can also know the part of fungi used for the mushroom products.
What Is The Mushroom Fruiting Body?
In the anatomy of a mushroom, the fruiting body is the visible part above the ground. It’s the fruit of the fungus, but often the color and shape of the mushroom fruit bodies differ according to its species. Many people think that the fruiting is the mushroom itself, which is partly correct. There’s so much more to the fungi anatomy than the fruiting body.
The fruiting body is what humans have eaten for centuries, especially culinary mushrooms like Lion’s Mane. But more than that, the fruiting bodies are responsible for the reproduction of mushrooms.
The fruiting body disperses spores that are spread into the ground and pave the way for new mushrooms to grow. Spores in fungi are seeds in fruits. Like fruits, spores are found only in the fruiting bodies of mushrooms.
Top Of Mushroom Cap Anatomy
The cap is the most visible part of the mushroom anatomy. It’s also called pileus, and the cap is pretty hard to miss. The cap is the top part of the mushroom, where the pores or gills are found.
Depending on the mushroom species, the caps differ in size, shape, or texture. In a nutshell, the cap is the most identifiable structure of fungi.
Different Shapes & Sizes Of Mushroom Caps
When we think of mushrooms, the first shape that comes to mind is the umbrella. However, as the mushroom matures, the shape of the cap changes. Sometimes they are smooth, covered with teeth, or have scales. The most common shapes of a mushroom cap are as follows:
- Bell-shaped or Campanulate
- Infundibuliform or deeply depressed
- Flat or plane
- Umbonate or knobbed
- Umbilicate or small depression
Mushroom Cap Scales
One of the distinguishable parts of a mushroom is the scales. These are hard-shelled structures that protect the mushrooms from outside elements.
The scales vary in shape, color, and size, which makes them fascinating to look at. Scales are often on the mushroom cap, but there are species where scales are on the stems as well. In most cases, scales are a result of cap expansion.
Underside Mushroom Cap Anatomy
Underneath the mushroom cap lies either the gills or lamellae, ridges, pores, or teeth. These underside structures are the source of spores. They release spores into the air and ground, so their role is vital to the fungi kingdom. Additionally, the undersides are the most identifiable parts of a mushroom.
Mushroom Cap Gills
The gills are tiny, and thin stem walls form clusters on the mushroom stems. There are layers of the gills. One is called lamellae, which is located from the stem to the edge, and the other is lamellulae, which are the shorter gills on the edges of the mushrooms. However, not all fungus species contain lamellulae.
The gills can be used to identify certain mushroom species due to their shape, color, width, depth, and spacing differences. They have varying patterns in terms of stem attachment, branching, or forking styles. However, not all mushrooms are gilled mushrooms.
Mushroom Cap Ridges
The mushroom cap ridges look similar to gills, but they’re connected to the undersides and not separate. It means they are easily separated when you pull off the gills from the cap. But, if the fake gills are molded into the underside, they’re called ridges. The best examples of mushrooms with forked ridges are Pig’s ears and chanterelle mushrooms.
Mushroom Cap Pores
Another type of mushroom has pores and not gills. Pores are tiny holes resembling that of a sponge. The small holes are connected to tubes within the mushroom caps. Spores form inside the tubes, and during maturity, they fall from the tiny holes. Like gills, the pores can be used as an identifiable structure of the mushroom species.
The most popular mushrooms with pores are polypores and boletes. Polypores are typically shell-shaped and are safe to eat. Polypores like Turkey Tail are usually found on rotting wood or logs. As for the boletes, porcini is the best example. It’s okay to eat, but not all boletes are safe for consumption.
Mushroom Cap Teeth
Aside from gills, pores, and ridges, there are mushroom species that have teeth instead of the three. Mushroom teeth, also referred to as spines, are lengthy, thin, shaggy hair-like parts of a fungus.
The perfect examples of this mushroom species are the hedgehog mushroom and Lion’s Mane. But there’s a big difference between the two.
The Hedgehog mushroom has short teeth coming from the underside of the mushroom’s cap, while Lion’s Mane mushroom or bearded tooth mushroom has teeth instead of a cap. So, thanks to the mushroom teeth, it’s easier to identify the fungus species.
Mushroom Spores Anatomy
Every fungus species has microscopic reproductive cells as one of the most essential parts of a mushroom. These are called spores, and when compared to plants, spores are seeds. Without the spores, the mushrooms cannot replicate. The spores are located in the gills, pores, teeth, or ridges.
What Is The Function Of Mushroom Spores?
Mushrooms reproduce asexually, so there is no gender when it comes to spores. When spores mature from the fruiting bodies, they are spread into the environment, carried by the wind until they land on the soil, and then new mushrooms grow.
Mushrooms have the ability to release trillions of microscopic reproductive cells daily, but only under the right conditions. The mushrooms must have enough water and nutrients to generate spores and continue to produce new fungi. In an ideal environment, mushrooms can reproduce rapidly.
How Do Mushroom Spores Released?
The mushroom spores are released in what is called “bursts”. The gills, teeth, ridges, and pores eject the spores into the air when the mushroom cap is disturbed or when it’s time to release the spores.
In many cases, such as in the spore dispersal of Lycoperdon perlatum mushroom, the spores are released in a cloud-like manner when the cap is bumped by animals or insects, as well as disturbed by rain.
How Do Mushroom Spores Travel?
Naturally, spores are released from the mushroom gills, pores, ridges, or teeth. Then, the wind catches on and spreads the microscopic reproductive cells into the ground. If the soil is fertile, the spores grow into mushrooms.
Spores can also be carried by water as they drop to the ground and into new fertile soils for new growth. In other cases, spores travel through critters, other animals, and insects that can unconsciously carry the spores to other locations.
Humans, too, can carry the spores as they come in contact with the very tiny reproductive cells and move around.
Mushroom Stem Anatomy
The mushroom stem is also known as the stipe. It’s the supporting structure of the mushroom cap and spores. The stem is easily recognizable since it’s the length, rigid, and cylindrical part of a mushroom that comes from the ground and holds the cap at the end. Most importantly, the stem contains the vulva or annulus, which safeguards the spores from the get-go.
Mushroom Ring (Annulus)
The annulus, or what is often called the mushroom ring, is one of the parts of a mushroom. It hangs around the fungus stem, but the annulus was once connected to the cap.
During the early development of mushrooms, a partial veil grows from the stem and envelops the cap underside. But as the mushrooms reach maturity, the partial veil detaches from the cap, and that is what is called the mushroom ring. In a nutshell, the annulus gives way to the exposure of the gills, pores, or teeth.
In the anatomy of a mushroom, some fungi species have what is called a vulva. This is a universal veil that covers the whole mushroom in its infancy.
But as the fungus matures, the universal veil ruptures, but the pieces stay linked to the bottom part of the stem, and these are now called the vulva.
Some pieces of the vulva are found on the mushroom cap, and they look like warts. For example, Amanita Muscaria’s mushroom has distinctive white marks as remnants of the universal veil.
In many cases, when mushrooms have a universal veil, they’re more likely to have a partial veil. So there are mushroom species with both the vulva and the annulus.
What Is The Mycelium Part Of The Mushroom?
Mycelium is the hidden part of a mushroom that is composed of a network of hyphae. The main purpose of a mycelium is to gather water and nutrients to sustain the growth of the fruiting body. Thus, it is the part that manufacturers use in edible mushrooms.
Mycelium is the source of all mushrooms, but note that not all mycelium has the ability of growing mushrooms. In fact, mycelium can exist for hundreds of years and not produce a single mushroom.
Do Mushrooms Grow Roots?
Since mushrooms are technically not plants, they have no roots. Instead, they have a root-like system called mycelium. Mycelium is responsible for collecting nutrients and water, just like roots, and it’s the source or beginning part of mushrooms.
Unlike roots, mycelium has the ability to release enzymes that collect dead organic matter from its surroundings. In this sense, mycelium is an essential part of the health of mother nature.
One of the most essential parts of a mushroom mycelium is called hyphae. It’s a network of small branching units that form a mycelium. The hyphae start from a spore that comes in contact with fertile soil and then germinates.
From there, the hyphae strands begin to develop and collect water, food, and nutrients. As they branch out, they attach to other hyphae networks and then form what is called mycelium.
What Are The Medicinal Parts of Mushrooms?
Considering the anatomy of a mushroom, each part is essential to the full development of the fungi. All parts have their own roles, but does each part of the mushroom have the same level of medicinal benefits?
Note that the key medicinal advantage of mushrooms is a polysaccharide called beta-glucans. This compound is responsible for boosting the immunity of humans, increasing energy levels, and regulating blood sugar levels. However, beta-glucans are not evenly spread in every part of the mushroom.
Beta Glucans: Mycelium Vs. Fruiting Body
If you’re fond of mushroom supplement, you probably noticed that some products use fruiting bodies, others mycelium only, and some utilize both portions of the mushroom anatomy.
But which part yields the highest amounts of beta-glucans? Can you get the best medicinal benefits from the fruiting bodies alone, from the mycelium, or from both parts? Let’s find out.
Are Some Beneficial Compounds Only Found In The Fruiting Body?
The fact is beta-glucans are more prominent in the fruiting bodies. They contain vital nutrients, bioactive compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, macrominerals, and trace minerals. However, the fruiting bodies do not have the extracellular components found only in the mycelium.
Are Some Beneficial Compounds Only Found In The Mycelium?
Mycelium contains organic matter or mycelial biomass that is not found in the fruiting bodies. It is rich in extracellular compounds such as polysaccharides, enzymes, and protective secondary metabolites. Not all mushrooms have compounds that are beneficial for the body.
Final Thoughts – Mushroom Anatomy
The mushroom anatomy is indeed interesting to explore, especially when understanding the mushroom’s life cycle. Now, you have a clear picture of a mushroom as a whole. As a consumer, you now know that the fruiting bodies have better beta-glucans content than the mycelium.
But, the mycelium has other health benefits, too, that are not on the fruiting bodies. So, to get the best out of the mushrooms, it’s ideal to find mushroom supplements made from both fruiting bodies and mycelium.
The good news is Golden Bloom Mushrooms offers many mushrooms in the form of supplements using whole mushrooms. So go ahead, and visit Golden Bloom Mushrooms’ official website today.