A stroll through the woods will most likely result in the spotting of mushrooms. Mushrooms are everywhere, growing on the ground, on trees, rising up in between mosses and rocks. But the mushroom body, what is seen with the naked eye, is only a small part of the entire mushroom.  The part most people don’t know about is mycelium - a mass of tiny threads creating most of the mushroom body.

Mycelium not only makes up the mushroom itself, but they stretch far and wide underground connecting plants of all species. Because we only see the mushroom body, many people have no idea that underneath our feet is an entire underground internet known as the mycelium network. The mycelium network acts as a web underground to grow links between fungi and can create passages from tree to tree.

How amazing is that? Mushrooms roam under the earth connecting plants to each other. Around 90% of land plants are in mutually-beneficial relationships with fungi. Trees are even known to communicate with other trees, bushes, and plants through the mycelium network. However, communication is only part of the network’s function.

According to research done by Resilience, “the mycelium gradually breaks heavier hydrocarbons into lighter-weight compounds that are less harmful to people and the environment”. The mycelium has powerful abilities to help the environment by breaking down harmful carbons.

It was also discovered that the mycelia of Oyster mushrooms specifically, “breaks down hydrocarbons much more effectively when mixed with wood chips and compost. Researchers found one strain of oil-eating oyster mushroom that thrives in saltwater environments. The mycelium fully colonizes straw soaked with seawater.”

Because of its amazing ability to break down harmful oils and other toxins in the environment, it is interesting to note that without mushrooms, our world would not be the same.

The mycelium network is best known for its ability to break things down which in return, creates new life. Alongside its ability to break down harmful oils or toxins in our environment, it can also aid in decomposing. A CBC article said that “Fungi are master decomposers that keep our forests alive”.

In fact, “Without fungi to aid in decomposition, all life in the forest would soon be buried under a mountain of dead plant matter”. After consuming things that are no longer alive and acting as decomposers, they essentially create new life.

Thanks to mushrooms, we are able to experience new life, a safer environment, and not to mention the hundreds of health benefits that they have to offer.