What Does Mycelium Do That Trees Don’t?
The mycelium plays a crucial role in supplying vital nutrients, including phosphorous and nitrogen, to the tree, fostering its healthy growth. In reciprocation, the tree furnishes the mycelium with sugars generated through photosynthesis. This reciprocal sharing of nutrients proves beneficial for the well-being of both the fungus and the tree. Additionally, mycelium enhances the tree's efficiency in absorbing water and nutrients from the soil. The filamentous strands of the mycelium can penetrate soil areas beyond the reach of tree roots, expanding the tree's access to a broader spectrum of nutrients
For a long time, people used to think fungi were like plant enemies, causing diseases and munching on trees. But in the last 30 years or so, we've come to realize that fungi actually play a pretty cool and essential role in the lives of trees and plants. Underneath the forest floor, there's this network of super-fine tubes called hyphae (imagine several kilometers of these tiny tubes right under your feet!). These tubes attach themselves to tree and plant roots, forming what's called "mycelium" – long, thin fungal filaments made up of hyphae.
This mycelium gang creates a massive underground network, teaming up with tree roots in a give-and-take relationship. 'Mycelium' is basically the branchy, threadlike part of any fungus, and 'mycorrhiza' is just a fancy term for the partnership between fungus mycelium and plant roots. Picture this: the tree shares its sugary snacks (photosynthate) with the fungus, which doesn't have its own leaves. In return, as the mycelium spreads through the soil, it picks up nutrients and water that the trees can't get on their own, and then hands them over to the trees. It's like a sweet barter system – the tree provides carbs in the form of plant sugars, and the fungus delivers nutrients and water.
These mycorrhizal networks are like the underground internet of the forest, connecting up to 90% of all land plants. They help trees share resources and expand their roots to slurp up more water. But it's not just a simple water pipeline – the mycorrhizal network also acts like a nutrient-delivery service. The fungus uses special enzymes to grab nutrients like Phosphorous and Nitrogen from the soil, which the trees can't do by themselves. In return, the trees get these goodies, along with water, and they trade back with the fungus by providing carbon-based plant sugars. It's a pretty nifty partnership happening right under our feet!
Mycelium isn't just a one-trick pony – it's like a superhero for trees! Besides its nutrient and water delivery service, mycelium can also swoop in and protect trees from nasty pests and diseases. This fungus is armed with its own antibiotics, which it uses to take down harmful bacteria and fungi that mess with a tree's roots. It's like mycelium is the tree's personal bodyguard, creating a barrier to keep pests and diseases at bay.
But wait, there's more! Mycelium isn't just looking out for individual trees; it's also playing a big role in the entire ecosystem. It's like the ultimate clean-up crew, breaking down dead plant stuff and recycling nutrients back into the soil. This helps keep the nutrient balance in check and gives a green thumbs-up for healthy plant growth throughout the whole ecosystem.
So, it's basically a win-win situation – mycelium helps trees stay nourished, shields them from pests and diseases, and contributes to the overall well-being of the entire neighborhood in the forest. Talk about a fungi-tastic partnership!