There are generally 2 types of fungi we are interested in when working with the soilfood web:

Mycorrhiza (myco = fungi + rhizo = root) fungi form a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship with plants through close connections in their roots.
We don’t find them in an active form in our compost, because generally there are no plants living in our composts. They need active, living roots to survive. So they can only be found active and living in substrates with living roots. However, our compost may well contain spores ready to kick into action once they detect a root and form a loving relationship.

Saprophytic fungi (sapro = rotten, phyto = plant) live off dead plant material, which is hard to digest for other soil organisms. They use complex enzymes to break down complex carbon structures that simple organisms just can’t do much with.
Amazingly, some can also break up toxic waste materials and neutralise them.
Very occasionally, some of these act as plant pathogens, often depending on the overall conditions.
These are often found in our soils and composts. They turn organic material into a vast communication and logistical food delivery network, if we let it. That means tilling and digging the ground breaks up these structures.

Useful resources:


All things mycorrhiza, don’t be put-off by the old-fashioned look of the pages!

A list of plants that associate with different types of fungi (or not)

Courses (all things fungi, all rather magic): by Peter McCoy and Team

Mushroom Identification:

This guide helps with looking at the macroscopic characteristics of fungi, to help with genus identification (best used in combination with a key, as discussed here).

This visual page helps describe and locate what different fungal keys are describing.

Here we have good fungi ID information, photos, including very helpful microscopic spore images.

General info on the marvellous world of fungi (books)

To come! For now, check out PeterMcCoy and Paul Stamets.

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