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Mushroom Anatomy: An Introduction To The Parts Of Fungi
May 02, 23
This article has been vetted by the Onnit Advisory Board. Read more about our editorial process.
Author: Sony Sherpa

Mushroom Anatomy: An Introduction To The Parts Of Fungi

  • by Sony Sherpa

    Medically reviewed by

    Sony Sherpa

    A rising star in the holistic health field, Dr. Sony Sherpa has been studying medicinal mushrooms for more than 7 years. Although she started writing on Nature’s Rise one year ago, her knowledge of medicinal mushrooms is backed by a master's degree in Holistic Medicine.

  • |
  • 11 min read
Mushroom Anatomy: An Introduction To The Parts Of Fungi

Describing mushroom anatomy is not always straightforward because there are so many varieties of mushrooms. In addition, mushrooms are a species on their own in the fungus kingdom and neither a plant nor an animal. Yes, they are alive, but how does their anatomy enable them to absorb energy and reproduce?

Mushroom parts are far more complex than it first meets the eye. Only a tiny portion of the anatomy of a mushroom is apparent in the visible parts (fruiting body) that emerge from the ground or tree. Instead, they have tiny hyphae below the surface, forming mycelial networks extending for kilometers.

This article will answer your questions about the different parts of a mushroom and which have beneficial effects on health. But first, let's examine each part of a mushroom's anatomy, its roles, and any health benefits they may provide.

Anatomy Of Mushroom Explained

 Anatomy Of Mushroom Explained

Since the beginning of time, people have used mushrooms as food and medicine. Since the dawn of man, people have been fascinated by the anatomy of mushrooms because of their unusual shape, numerous variants, structure, and powerful health benefits.

Most people are already familiar with what a mushroom is and how it typically appears. Usually, a stalk and cap come to mind when we think of a mushroom. However, the anatomy of mushrooms indeed comprises a wide range of characteristics, and there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Not what we can see above ground is the most remarkable aspect of mushroom anatomy; the real fascination exists in the mycelium that is located below the soil's surface.

Tiny spores released by mushrooms into the air travel across the forest floor to multiply and add new mushrooms to the network. As they mature, some mushrooms can form a stalk and a cap.

Some mushrooms are incredibly poisonous; you should remember that not all are edible. Edible mushrooms are the ones we can buy at the grocery store and consume, whereas functional mushrooms have the potential to offer our bodies significant health benefits.

The main characteristics and anatomical parts of mushrooms are outlined below.

Fruiting Body

Fruiting Body

The fruiting body of the mushroom comprises of the entire mushroom, from the components used to create recipes for garlic mushrooms, mushroom linguine, and other types of mushrooms to the anatomy-related parts of mushrooms involved in reproduction. In addition, it produces spores that support the mushroom network's growth, spread, and survival.

Every mushroom has a unique anatomy. Some types of mushrooms have gills, while others have teeth, pores, rings, or volva. The fruiting body of a mushroom consists of the following parts:

1. Cap


The portion of the mushroom that is most noticeable is the cap. It typically sits on top of the mushroom's stalk and has a curved form resembling a hat. The cap, sometimes called the pileus of the mushroom, is where the spore-producing parts of the mushroom are housed. Some mushrooms have tiny caps, while others have colorful and vibrant caps.

A mushroom cap's shape, size, and texture can alter as it ages; typically, the older the mushroom, the more the cap enlarges.

The cap serves as an umbrella, shielding the area beneath it that produces spores. The surface producing the spores will become soggy and unable to move in the air during the mushroom reproductive cycle. It becomes wet.

 Lion's mane, Puffballs, and Cordyceps are a few mushrooms that don't have caps. Some mushrooms, like Tremella, have structures that resemble sea sponges, while others have a ton of small caps grouped together like a Maitake. Some fungi, such as Poria cocos, Truffles, and most of the Chaga's life cycle, don't even produce mushrooms; instead, they develop dense structures.

2. Gills And Pores

Gills And Pores

Most people are unaware of the mushroom gills and pores because they are far less noticeable than the stem or cap. However, you might notice several gill-like structures behind a mushroom cap, which are gratifying and lovely to touch. The mushroom's gills assist with the production of spores and their release into the atmosphere throughout the reproduction process.

Not all mushrooms are gilled. Under the mushroom cap, some have a distinct structure, while others have pores. For example, the underside of a mushroom cap has pores that resemble small holes and feel like the surface of a sponge.

3. Teeth


A mushroom will most likely have teeth if it lacks gills or pores. One fantastic example of a mushroom with teeth is Lon's mane.  The teeth are soft, small tooth-like structures. A Hedgehog mushroom with teeth under its crown would be an excellent example. Many mushrooms contain teeth and serve the same purpose of dispersing spores as gilled mushroom structures.

4. Spores


The life cycle of mushrooms is not complete without spores. Spores resemble plant seeds in many ways. During their reproductive process, certain mushrooms disperse these seeds through the air. Other mushrooms spread their spores via water or rely on animals to consume the mushrooms and excrete the spores, which causes the mushrooms to grow out of dung. Finally, other mushrooms must be transported by insects.

You will likely never see mushroom spores because they are tiny and can only be seen under a microscope in massive amounts, which can resemble dust or powder. These tiny spores, which contain all the genetic material required to produce a new mushroom, aid in identification. You can recognize specific mushrooms if you notice a lot of spores by observing the color of the dust.

When a mushroom is nearing the end of its reproductive cycle, it releases spores and spreads them via animals, insects, the air, or both. Although every fungus is unique, most spores need a warm, moist, shaded environment to germinate and grow. Yet, certain fungi have figured out how to survive even in the hard radioactive environs of Chernobyl, the freezing, snowy Antarctica, or even underwater.

5. Volva


A volva surrounds the mushroom anatomy as some growing mushrooms emerge from the ground and develop upward. Although not all mushrooms have a volva at the base of the stalk, it is an essential characteristic for identification.

The volva remains at the base of the stem while the mushroom life cycle develops, while the other fruit bodies move up the stalk. The mushroom volva can be recognized by a cup-like structure at the base of the stem.

6. Ring


Some mushroom stems do not have rings. Instead, the skirt-like ring extends outward from the base of the stem. The ring is a thin veil that partially encircles and shields the mushroom's gills as it develops. The protective veil forms cracks and separates to form a ring around the mushroom stem when the mushroom cap enlarges and grows to the point where it outgrows it.

Some rings have thin, cobweb-like strands, while others are thicker. The thickness, color, and shape of the ring can aid in identifying the mushroom.



Few people, except those who research mycology, know that mushroom anatomy continues past the fruiting bodies. The mycelium, however, is a complex component of some mushrooms found underground.

Some people wonder, do mushrooms have roots? Multiple mushroom fruiting bodies are linked together in a network by the root-like mycelium, which develops beneath the soil's surface. By transporting and absorbing nutrients from substrates like tree bark and plant roots, the mycelium helps in feeding the mushroom.

What's more intriguing is that the mycelium plays a role in more than simply the mushroom network's expansion and maintenance. It encompasses the entire forest ecosystem and provides nutrients to other plants to aid their growth.

Additionally, it interacts with the other plants in the ecosystem to prevent overgrowth and guarantee the nearby plants' health.

Some fungi do not produce mushrooms. There are an estimated 5,000,000 different fungus species, and only 120,000 of them have been described. Only 14,000 of those 120,000 produce mushrooms. Over 95% of terrestrial plants are thought to have a mycorrhizal connection, a symbiotic association between mycelium and plant roots. Most of these mycelial networks mainly multiply below and don't actually produce mushrooms above ground.

It's critical to realize that mycelium and mushrooms are two distinct entities. Even though they are both fungi, the mycelium is a component of some mushrooms' life cycles rather than being a part of the anatomy of the mushroom.

What Parts Of The Mushroom Can You Eat?

What Parts Of The Mushroom Can You Eat

The fruiting body, which is used most frequently in mushroom supplements, has the highest nutritional content. The fruiting body of functional mushrooms can also be used in your favorite fungal dishes.

Since the mycelium of mushrooms grows on a substrate, supplements that contain it are frequently diluted with filler.

Oats and rice are common substrates used by mushroom producers. However, they are difficult to separate from the mycelium when making supplements. As a result, the manufacturer would probably add fillers and mycelium extract to dilute the product.

Therefore, it is preferable to stick to the fruiting body of the mushroom anatomy while taking mushrooms or mushroom extracts.

FAQs About Mushroom Anatomy

Is Mushroom A Root Or Stem?

The mushroom consists of a cap and a stalk, but unlike plants, mushrooms lack roots. Mycelium, which resembles roots in the animal kingdom but is found on the stem of mushrooms, aids in nutrition absorption and acts as the reproductive system.

Why Is Understanding Mushroom Anatomy Important?

The study of mushroom anatomy(1) is a fascinating subject to investigate better to understand the unique properties and variety of mushrooms. In addition, you may better understand why fungi are so essential to a healthy diet, well-being, and connection to the world by learning about the anatomy of a mushroom.

What Is The Stem Of A Mushroom Used For?

The purpose of a stem is to aid in the spores' dissemination. For example, many mushrooms in the wild disperse their spores using the wind or animals.

Key Takeaways

Although mycelium and mushrooms are fungal, the fruiting body—the mushroom stem, spores, ring, cap, and gills—makes up the mushroom anatomy. Mycelium, however, is only a component of the life cycle of some mushrooms.

Numerous mushrooms, especially adaptogenic mushrooms, are healthy and safe to eat while offering essential nutrients.  The benefits mushroom supplements provide should be considered if you're looking for a new supplement.

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  1. Medicinal Mushrooms: Ancient Remedies Meet Modern Science,(1)

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