This illustration of the mycorrhizal web is by Taylor Bright. A member of BAAM and CoRenewal, Bright is a multifaceted citizen science mycologist, ecological steward, naturalist, teacher, speaker, writer, and artist devoted to the study of fungi and conservation of our living earth. (Used by permission.)


Mycology: The discipline of biology focused on the study of fungi.

Fungi: A large group of organisms that includes mushrooms, yeasts, and molds. They comprise a kingdom that is separate from plants, animals, protists, and bacteria.

Mycelium: The part of the fungus that is underground practically circles the earth, running through the ground and through substrates like trees, logs, straw, and compost. In structure, mycelia are made of branching, thread-like hyphae. Their colonies can be tiny or as huge as the contiguous mycelial mat found running through a 2,400-acre site (around 1,665 football fields) in eastern Oregon before logging roads were built in that area. Mycologist Paul Stamets calls the mycelium “nature’s internet,” a superhighway of information-sharing membranes that govern the flow of essential nutrients around an ecosystem.

Fruiting body: A mushroom is the fruit of the mycelium and the part we eat (provided it’s an edible mushroom). The fruiting body produces spores that disperse and propagate new mushrooms during the sexual phase of a fungus’ life.

Mycorrhizae: This term refers to the mutually beneficial relationships that fungi form with most plant species by attaching to their roots, thereby extending the plants’ reach to water and nutrients.

—Jillian Steinberger-Foster