AskDefine | Define mycelium

Dictionary Definition

mycelium n : the vegetative part of a fungus consisting of a mass of branching threadlike hyphae [also: mycelia (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The vegetative part of any fungus; consisting of a mass of branching, threadlike hyphae, often underground


Extensive Definition

Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae. The mass of hyphae is sometimes called shiro, especially within the fairy ring fungi. Fungal colonies composed of mycelia are found in soil and on or in many other substrates. Mycelium may form fruiting bodies such as mushrooms. A mycelium may be minute, forming a colony that is too small to see, or it may be extensive:
It is through the mycelium that a fungus absorbs nutrients from its environment. It does this in a two stage process. Firstly the hyphae secrete enzymes onto the food source, which breaks down polymers into monomers. These monomers are then absorbed into the mycelium by facilitated diffusion and active transport.
Mycelium is vital in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems for its role in the decomposition of plant material. It contributes to the organic fraction of soil and its growth releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. The mycelium of mycorrhizal fungi increases the efficiency of water and nutrient absorption of most plants and confers resistance to some plant pathogens. Mycelium is an important food source for many soil invertebrates.
Sclerotia are compact or hard masses of mycelium.


One of the primary roles of fungi in an ecosystem is to decompose organic compounds. Petroleum products and pesticides that can be contaminants of soil are organic molecules. Fungi therefore should have potential to remove such pollutants from the soil environment, a process known as bioremediation.
Mycelial mats have been suggested (see Paul Stamets) as having potential as biological filters, removing chemicals and microorganisms from soil and water. The use of fungal mycelia to accomplish this has been termed "mycofiltration", although there is no reason to suspect that the process is any different from that of bioremediation using fungi.


  • Stamets, Paul. Mycelium Running, Ten Speed Press,U.S., 2005 (p. 45, caption to figure 60)
mycelium in Czech: Mycelium
mycelium in Danish: Mycelium
mycelium in German: Myzel
mycelium in Spanish: Micelio
mycelium in Esperanto: Micelio
mycelium in French: Mycélium
mycelium in Italian: Micelio
mycelium in Hebrew: תפטיר
mycelium in Latvian: Micēlijs
mycelium in Dutch: Zwamvlok
mycelium in Japanese: 菌糸体
mycelium in Polish: Plecha
mycelium in Russian: Мицелий
mycelium in Swedish: Mycel
mycelium in Ukrainian: Грибниця
mycelium in Walloon: Miceliom
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1