What goes on beneath a forest floor is just as interesting–and just as important–as what goes on above it. A vibrant network of nearly microscopic threads is recycling air, soil, and water in a continuous cycle of balance and replenishment. Survival depends not of the fittest, but on the collective.
Mycelium is Earth’s natural internet. ~ Paul Stamets
Imagine a log that was a tree. Maybe it died of old age or became infected by a disease and fell over. When it did, fungi spread into the log from the earth below and started decomposing it. These fungi are part of a vast network of underground vegetation called mycelium, composed of very tiny, cobweb-like threads of organic life called hyphae.
When we see mushrooms, there’s actually a vast network of mycelium hidden in the ground beneath them. Only about 10 percent of all fungi produce mushrooms.
But when you pick a mushroom, you stand upon a vast, hidden network of fungal mycelium that literally extends underneath every footstep you take. These networks are the foundation of life.
Without this metamorphic process, the planet would choke. The only reason we can walk around in most woods is because thousands of species of fungi are decaying all of the organic detritus on the forest floor, recycling the dead material and beginning the renewal of life.
Read the entire story in Volume 2 of Nourish and Flourish. Excerpted with permission form Earth Aware, Fantastic Fungi: How Mushrooms Can Heal, Shift Consciousness & Save the Planet, Edited and introduction by Paul Stamets. The companion book to Fantastic Fungi, The Magic Beneath Us film by Louie Schwartzberg.