What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about mushrooms? A slender stem and an umbrella-shaped top.
But delve beneath this simple silhouette, and you’ll find a complex structure teeming with intricacies. This fascinating organism, in fact, comprises as many as 20 distinct parts.
Let’s explore the different parts of a mushroom and discover the wonders hidden in its humble form.
Anatomy of a Mushroom with Parts Explained
1. Pileus (Cap)
As clear from the name, the cap of the mushroom is the topmost structure of the mushroom. The cap is also known as pileus, which is also the name for a Greek cap.
I still remember when I was a little girl, I used to think all mushroom caps were colorful and beautiful. However, when I saw a mushroom for the first time on a camping trip, I was a bit shocked. It was a thin brown cap that didn’t resemble any pictures that I had seen of mushrooms.
My mother was quick to tell me that there are many species of mushrooms. Some are more colorful than others, and different species of mushrooms have different types of caps.
The cap holds the gills, pores, and ridges, and some mushroom caps may also have teeth.
Scales refer to the thin layer of the veil tissue on the top of the cap and some parts of the stem. Usually, they don’t cover the entire cap, and you can find them in patches. The scales also act as a protective layer for the mushroom.
On some mushrooms, you would find wrinkled patterns on the edge of the cap. These patterns are called striations, and they are usually caused when the cap collapses on the gills.
Warts refer to the chunks of universal veil left on the top of the cap.
They start off as a single piece; however, as the cap grows, the warts start to get apart.
Some mushrooms have different areas or ‘zones’ on the cap that have different colors and textures. So those colorful mushrooms that you see in cartoons aren’t all fiction.
Sometimes mushroom caps naturally have more than one color. These colors and different textures tell a lot about the age, type, and species of the mushrooms.
As the mushroom grows, the cap starts to stretch. This results in the formation of several cracks on the top of the mushrooms.
The unique patterns that these cracks form are known as areolae.
7. Gills (Lamellae)
Mushrooms have gills on the bottom side of the cap. Different species of mushrooms have different types of gills; thus, they can be used to identify the species. Their main purpose is to disperse the spores.
I once helped my young daughter with a school project on mushrooms. Imagine explaining the concept of spores to a young child!
The simplest analogy I found was comparing spores to the seeds of a plant. Spores, much like seeds, give rise to new life – in this case, mushrooms. They are produced and released into the soil, germinating into fresh mushrooms under the right conditions.
Spores perform the same function as seeds do for plants, but it should always be noted that they are not exactly the same thing.
Teeth are small and spiny structures that hang downwards from the underside of the mushroom cap.
In some species of mushrooms, you find teeth instead of gills; however, the teeth perform the same function of spores dispersal as gills.
In some of the mushroom species, you wouldn’t find gills or teeth. Instead, you would find small sponge-like holes called pores.
They are found on the underside of the cap and are responsible for the dispersal of spores.
Tubes can be found in the mushroom species that have pores beneath the cap. There is a tube-like structure going inside the cap from the pores.
The tubes are not visible as they are inside the cap. These tubes act like a pipe for spores, so when the spores are formed, they travel through these tubes and get released through the pores.
12. Stipe (Stem)
This is one of the two parts of a mushroom that are easily visible and usually known by everyone. The stem is a relatively large and sturdy cylindrical part that supports the cap of the mushroom. If you think of a mushroom as an umbrella, then the stem would be the umbrella handle.
Unlike other remanent of the mushroom veil, the skirt is found in mostly intact form. As clear from the name, it is shaped like a skirt and can be found near the point where the cap and stem meet.
Who knew Mushrooms had a fashion sense?
The ridges in the stem of the mushroom form a unique and sometimes very beautiful pattern. This pattern is known as Reticulum.
The volva is located at the base of the mushroom. It is a cup-shaped structure which is actually the remaining part of an outer layer that completely enveloped the mushroom when it was still in early development stage.
16. Annulus (Veil)
Like the volva, the annulus is also part of the veil that once enveloped the mushroom in its early stages. It is a ring-like structure that is usually found on the stem of the mushroom.
17. Universal Veil/Partial Veil
This is a tissue that covers the mushroom when it is young, protecting it as it develops.
Parts of the veil can remain on the mature mushroom in various forms, such as the volva at the base, the annulus around the stem, the warts on the cap, or the ring/skirt.
18. Basal Bulb
Basal Bulb refers to the lower round part of the stem. It is the part that Is connected to the Mycelium. In some species, the basal bulb is covered with scales.
The hyphae are thread-like structures found at the bottom of the mushroom. The collection of these hyphae is known as Mycelium and is responsible for extracting and transferring nutrients from the soil to the stem and other parts of the mushroom.
The best way to understand Mycelium is to think about the root system of plants. Mycelium is the root-like structure of the mushroom. Most of it is underground, but some portion of Mycelium may be seen above ground as well, given that the size of the Mycelium is large enough.
Mycelium is usually very small, but some species of mushrooms have Mycelium that is spread over large areas. Its purpose is to provide support and nutrients to the mushroom.
We’ve journeyed through the complex anatomy of a mushroom, revealing 20 significant parts that contribute to its unique structure.
However, not all these parts are present in every mushroom species. With over 14,000 species across the globe, mushrooms display a rich tapestry of shapes, colors, sizes, and characteristics. While some offer edible delights and medicinal benefits, others serve as stark reminders of nature’s toxic arsenal.
There’s no doubt that mushrooms, with their intriguing structures and diverse forms, hold a certain charm and mystery. They can engage the curious minds of children and adults alike, inviting us to delve deeper into the wonders of nature’s design.
So, next time you encounter a mushroom, why not take a closer look and appreciate its intricacy? You may discover more than you expect.