4 Mushroom Categories You Should Know

Mushroom may be just one simple word. But, it has more than 50,000 species of the fungi. There are Morels, White Button, Reishi, Cordyceps, Shiitake, and lots more. So if you are planning to grow your mushrooms, you may want to know which kind of mushroom that is. Lucky for you, you don’t need to learn all 50,000 species for you to pick.

You just need to learn four mushroom categories.

  1. Saprotrophic
  2. Mycorrhiza
  3. Parasitic
  4. Endophytic

Scientists developed these classifications based on how mushrooms receive nutrients. Read on to learn more about these mushroom categories.

Saprotrophic

One of the four mushroom categories is Saprotrophic mushrooms. You can find them on dead and decaying wood. Despite that, most of these mushrooms are not only common but also edible. These fungi can speed up the decomposition of the host plant. They break down plant matter and convert them into nutrients

Examples of Saprotrophic mushrooms are: 

  • Morels
  • Cremini
  • White button
  • Portabella
  • Giant Puffball
  • Yellow Houseplant Mushroom
  • Shiitake
  • Chicken of the Woods
  • Maitake 
  • Enokitake
  • Reishi
  • Shaggy Mane
  • Turkey Tail
  • Black Trumpet

There are two kinds of Saprotrophic fungi: Litter Decomposers, and Wood Decay Fungi. The majority of the Saprotrophic mushrooms are Little Decomposers. They break down plant matter to feed on them. They are usually found scattered on the wood grounds. The ones that can really break down the wood on trees are the Wood Decay Fungi. The Reishi is the most famous kind of Wood Decay Fungi.

If you plan to grow one of these Saprotrophic mushrooms, you will need the following:

  • Water
  • Oxygen
  • Soil with a pH of 7 or less
  • Cooler temperatures
  • Decaying or dead wood

Mycorrhizal

When it comes to mutual benefits, Mycorrhizal mushrooms and their host are thriving. The mushrooms can get glucose from the host plant. While the host plant receives water and disease protection from the mushrooms. Their symbiotic relationship is what keeps them surviving and growing.

Several categories compose the Mycorrhizal mushrooms. But most of these mushrooms are under the Ectomycorrhizae. You can find them near the plant’s roots. They grow through the soil extending the roots of their host plant. Thus, they can access the nutrients from deep below the soil ground.

Examples of Mycorrhizal mushrooms include:

  • Matsutake
  • Chanterelles
  • Caesar’s Mushroom 
  • Truffles
  • Porcini 

These mushrooms are a bit difficult to grow because of the need for a host plant. They usually live on woody plants like birch, oak, and pine trees. If you live near these woody plants, then growing your Mycorrhizal mushrooms is easy. But if not, fungi from this mushroom category is a no go.

Parasitic

If Mycorrhizal mushrooms have a healthy relationship with their hosts, Parasitic mushrooms don’t. The only one that benefits is the mushroom. They rob the nutrients from their hosts. At some point, they eventually kill their host plants.

Plants are not the only possible host for the Parasitic mushrooms. They also feed on animals. An example of these is the Cordyceps. These mushrooms grow on the backs of insects, most commonly on caterpillars. 

Furthermore, humans are not exempted from these mushrooms. Some parasitic mushrooms attach to humans upon contact. These types of fungi can lead to rashes and even serious medical conditions.

Examples of Parasitic mushrooms

  • Chaga
  • Lion’s Mane
  • Caterpillar Fungus (Cordyceps)
  • Honey Fungus

If you find Mycorrhizal mushrooms hard to grow, Parasitic mushrooms are even harder. Not only do you need a host, but you also must be willing to kill off this host for your mushrooms to live. Recently, scientists are developing alternative ways to grow these mushrooms. Cordyceps, for example, can now be grown in laboratories.

Endophytic

When it comes to the most difficult to grow, Endophytic mushrooms can take the crown. These complex fungi need a host. But unlike the parasitic ones, they do not harm the host. They can even provide water, protection, and nutrients to their host.

However, they can’t be categorized as Mycorrhizal mushrooms. This is because they can also grow without a host. Mostly, they can be cultivated in laboratories. Plus, most plants can get some kind of endophytic fungal infection. But due to their complexity, most mycologists can’t give exact details which are Endophytic mushrooms.

Wrap Up

Knowing the 4 mushroom categories is important to take into consideration when planning your mushroom farm. Through this article, we figured out which of these categories best fit us. For me, picking fungal species from the Saprotrophic mushrooms is the easiest. But the choice is always up to you.

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