How Do Mushrooms Feed? Classification

The fungi feed of material organic absorbed from the environment and other organisms; therefore they are said to be heterotrophs. Fungi are organisms belonging to the Fungi Kingdom, to which yeasts, molds, mushrooms and other eukaryotic organisms (organisms composed of cells whose DNA is in a differentiated nucleus and surrounded by a membrane) also belong.

They do not belong to the kingdom of plants, animals or protists (a living being made up of a single eukaryotic cell, such as protozoa). Fungi are cryptogamic organisms, meaning they lack flowers, like lichens, algae and bacteria.

Fungi feed on organic matter from outside.

Having no chlorophyll, fungi cannot carry out photosynthesis, which is the process by which plants can feed themselves. For this reason, fungi must necessarily depend on other organisms for nourishment.

They do it through filaments or hyphae . The grouped hyphae constitute mycelia, which are the channels that fungi establish to absorb water, minerals and nutrients in general, work that is made effective thanks to the enzymes.

Mushroom nutrition: classification

Fungi are classified into different groups according to their characteristics. The one that competes here is the classification according to their way of eating:


In this group are the fungi that live on or in living organisms – whether animals or plants – and absorb their nutrients through hydrolytic enzymes capable of breaking down living tissue molecules, causing disease and even death to their host.

The spores of these fungi enter the living organism through fissures; once inside, some germinate giving rise to fungi, and these to mushrooms that can then be seen on the surface.

In general, almost all plants and animals can be – and indeed are – attacked by many species of parasitic fungi.

Once the tree or the animal that contains them dies, the parasite that killed it also dies, due to lack of food. It is the moment when the next group of fungi acts.


They are those that obtain their food from dead organic matter, be it animal (including excrement) or vegetable, but always in a state of decomposition.

In this case, the fungus feeds by releasing enzymes that dissolve the material they colonize and then absorb the organic matter that results from this process.

Their function is very important in the balance of ecosystems, mainly in forests, since they play a recycling role of dead matter.

Many edibles such as shiitake and oyster mushrooms belong to this group of mushrooms.

There are also those that help the process of making foods that require fermentation such as alcoholic beverages and some cheeses or those used in the field of medicine, such as penicillin, among others.

Symbiotic or mutualistic

They are those that live together with other organisms, but without causing harm or disease. In any case, it is an innocuous coexistence or in which both benefit. Within this group of symbiotic feeding are:

1- Mycorrhizal or mycorrhizal fungi

From the Greek mycorrhiza , which means “root-fungus”, they are those that feed on organic substances found in the soil. The symbiosis in this case occurs when the fungus takes from the plant the excess glucose from its roots.

However, at the same time it allows the tree to optimize the assimilation of inorganic foods. This is because the roots of the trees have rootlets at their ends that in turn branch into much finer absorbent hairs.

Sometimes these hairs are very weak or scarce, which prevents or hinders the plant from feeding, endangering its growth and survival.

This is where the work of the fungus is essential: it compensates the favor of the plant by opening channels to facilitate the feeding of the roots.

The benefits that plants receive from mycorrhizal fungi can be summarized as:

  • Water and nutrient absorption
  • Growth regulation
  • Protection against disease

The fungi that are usually found on the grass are a clear example of mycorrhization. If you look closely, the grass around the fungus is usually greener and brighter, thanks to the nitrogen provided by the fungus, which is transformed into nitrates and nitrites that are an excellent fertilizer for the plant.

But thanks to these nutrients, the grass also tends to grow and die more quickly, so that later it will turn more yellowish than that grass under which the fungus does not exist.

2- Lichenized fungi

They are the fungi that form a symbiotic relationship with an alga, allowing it to colonize hard-to-reach areas.

In places as inhospitable as the vast plains near the Arctic Circle, lichens are sometimes the only food that animals can find.

The great resistance of this plant to inclement weather is due to the fungi that grow next to it. For this reason, lichens can be found in almost any habitat, no matter how inclement its latitude, altitude or temperature conditions may be.

While it is true that many fungi are poisonous and dangerous for human consumption, fungi in general are of invaluable value in nature, due to their participation in the decomposition of organic matter and their contribution to the balance of ecosystems.


  1. How mushrooms feed. Recovered from
  2. José Cuesta Cuesta. Ecology and habitat of fungi. Recovered from
  3. Fungi kingdom. Recovered from learning about the
  4. What do mushrooms eat? Recovered from
  5. Lichenized fungi. Recovered from

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