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Common Mushroom Terminology

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

The SporeShift guide to commonly-used Mushroom-growing jargon & lingo.

There's a fair bit of mycology-specific (mycology is the study of fungi) terminology that can get confusing to the uninitiated. Here's our ever-evolving list of mushroom-grower's frequently-used-terms with accompanying descriptions. Hopefully, if you aren't sure of the meaning of a commonly used mushroom-cultivation related word, it will help you out!

Aborting: This happens usually when young mushrooms dry-out, get damaged or get too cold. The mushroom pr pin set will stop growing, dry, yellow in colour and shrivel up.

Agar: A powder derived from sea weed. When dissolved into hot water and allowed to set it has a firm jelly like texture. Selected nutrients are then added, everything is sterilised then poured into petri dishes to do sterile culture work in the laboratory. >> Agar Powder available here.

Block: Substrate, usually sawdust, held together by mycelium is called a 'fruiting block.'

Cap: The top of the mushroom with gills underneath.

Casing Layer: A layer of water-holding-material, such as compost or coco coir, layered on top of a substrate to promote mushroom growth.

CO2: Carbon Dioxide gas is exhaled by mushrooms. Much the same as humans, mushrooms breath in oxygen (O2) and exhale CO2. CO2 needs to be removed from the growing environment to produce normal size caps, elevated CO2 levels will cause some mushrooms, especially oyster mushrooms, to grow long stems with small caps. Check out the >> SporeShift CO² producing mushroom bag for use in grow-tents here.

Coco Coir: Soil like medium that holds water, a common casing material or substrate for dung-loving mushrooms.

Cold Shock: Placing a mushroom block into a cold environment - usually for 12 hours - to drop temperature; mimicking a seasonal change to encourage mushroom fruit-body development.

Colonise: When the mycelium is growing from one substrate to the next. Once the intended substrate is completely dense with white, it is fully-colonised and ready to produce fruit bodies or be transferred onto the next substrate.

Contaminant: Something other than white mycelium growing on the spawn or substrate. An undesired mould or bacteria, most commonly Trichoderma, a green-coloured mould. Sometimes referred to as "contam".

Culture: A pure mushroom strain that is selected for desirable traits such as nice fruit body formation, size and/or colour. Usually stored and grown on nutrient agar in the laboratory. >> NZ Mushrooms cultures on Agar.

Flush: When mushroom blocks produce mushrooms this is called a flush, once harvested there will be a dormancy period followed by the next flush of mushrooms.

Fruit-body, Fruiting Body, Mushroom: The edible part of the mushroom that people are most commonly aware of, this is what we usually see in nature. Essentially, the 'flower' of the organism. Fruit bodies are actually made up of condensed mycelium.

Gills: The underside of the cap, thin lines, almost blade-like where spores drop from: fragile if touched and bruise easily on some species.

Green mould: Trichoderma, the most common contaminant when growing mushrooms, shows up as a light to dark green colour. Very fast growing and will often out compete mycelium.

Gypsum: Fine gypsum is used to enhance mushroom metabolism, adds nutrients and helps material loosen/ break up. Order >> gypsum for mushroom growing in NZ here.

Hydrogen peroxide - H2O2: A great surface cleaner used at 3-5% strength. Does not need to be rinsed-off preparation or mixing surfaces/ containers before mixing substrate. This is a major advantage over bleach.

Harvesting: The time to pick the mushrooms. Each mushroom species has different harvest times.

HEPA filter: A filter used in the laboratory to produce a sterile stream of air to preform culture work within. Order >> HEPA filters to build your own laminar flow hood.

Hydrated lime: An additive used to increase the PH for pasteurisation of substrates such as straw. Must be calcium-based lime, not magnesium-based. 2g/L is a good starting point. Order >> Hydrated Lime for mushroom-growing here.

Inoculating: The act of mixing/adding in the >> spawn/mushroom culture into the bulk substrate.

Incubation: After a substrate is inoculated with >> mushroom spawn or >> agar culture it will then incubate for a period of time to then produce mushrooms or be expanded into more spawn.

Isopropyl Alcohol: A denatured alcohol that is an excellent cleaner for surfaces, containers, hands, etc. Mainly used in the laboratory as it is a little pricey compared to H20 or bleach.

Liquid Culture: A liquid solution in which pure mycelium is grown to inoculate spawn. Order >> Oyster Mushroom liquid culture here.

Laminar Flow Hood: A box with a HEPA filter mounted in the front, produces a laminar stream of air, usually filtering 99.9995% of particles down to 0.2micro. Used in the laboratory to do sterile culture work in-front of. >> Available for NZ customers in our website shop here.

Misting: Spraying water as a very fine mist to hydrate fruit bodies.

Mushroom: The fruit body of the whole organism, essentially the 'flower' or 'fruit'.

Mycelium/ Mycelia: This is the bulk of the mushroom, usually underground or inside a log/dead wood, generally unseen. Mycelium is a fine root like structure that secretes enzymes digesting material externally. A 'fruit body' is concentrated mycelium. The largest living organism on earth is a 2200acre mycelia mat of the Honey Mushroom, dating back 2400-8000 years old.

Mycology: The study of fungi.

Pasteurisation: A process which kills off most spores and other non-beneficial organisms in bulk substrate such as straw. This is most commonly done with hydrated lime method in cold water (2g lime per L) and soaked for 12-24 hours, or water is heated to 80deg celsius with substrate submerged for 1.5 hours. Hydrated lime is far easier, safer and cost effective.

PH: A measurement of how acidic or basic a water solution is, ranging from 1 (most acidic) to 14 (most basic).

Perlite: Perlite is very lightweight volcanic puffed glass, heated to 870celcius it puffs like popcorn with millions of microscopic holes, these tiny holes easily hold and release moisture making it excellent for maintaining humidity inside small fruiting chambers. Order >> Perlite for mushroom-growing here.

Pinning, Pin, Primordia: The first signs of mushroom development, looking different with each species, a crucial time for quality mushroom formation and very fragile. Usually begins with a denser concentration of mycelium near a hole in the bag or pronounced off the block, bumps then form which then turn into small mushrooms known as pins.

Rhizomorphic: A type of thick rope-like mycelium that is capable of producing quality mushrooms.

SAB: Still Air Box - A clean box with hand holes to preform sterile culture work inside of -- a cheap alternative to a >> laminar flow hood.

SGFC /Shot Gun Fruiting Chamber: A plastic tote with a series of holes drilled in the sides for air exchange, wet >> perlite is put on the floor to increase humidity. Mushroom blocks are sat on top of the perlite to fruit. >> Learn how to make a cheap, easy to build, indoor mushroom-fruiting chamber here.

Spawn: Usually sterilised grain or sawdust with a selected mushroom culture grown through it. >> Spawn is mixed into more sterilised grain/ sawdust to produce more spawn or into bulk substrate to produce mushroom fruit bodies.

Spores: Essentially the 'seeds' of mushrooms but are rarely used in the mushroom farm. Tiny microscopic single celled reproductive product that are dropped from the 'gills' by the millions.

Spore Print: A print of spores dropped from a mushroom cap. Spore prints are made by leaving a mushroom cap on clean paper or foil for 6-12 hours with a cup/ bowl over top so there is no air movement: a beautiful print will be left on the surface. Spore prints are also used as a part of the identification process for foraging mushrooms.

Spore Syringe: A common home method of growing mushrooms is to suck up spores from a spore print into a syringe of sterile water -- the spores then germinate in the liquid and can be injected into sterile grain or substrate. The spores injected then have a chance to germinate and grow mycelium to produce mushrooms. Order >> Sterile Grain for mushroom germination here.

Stem: The part of the mushroom that attaches the cap to the bag/ block/ log/ ground.

Sterilise: Killing off all spores and organisms within a substrate, usually done with steam in an autoclave or pressure-cooker for 90mins at 15psi (121 Celsius).

Strain: A set of genetics from a species usually selected for best fruit-body shape or some other desirable characteristics such as consistency or yield.

Straw: A common growing substrate for oyster mushrooms, cereal straws (such as wheat, rye, barley, oats etc) can be pasteurised in lime or hot water and are usually cut in 1-3" pieces for best yield. Learn >> how to grow bulk oyster mushrooms on straw here.

Substrate: This is the material in which you grow the mushroom mycelium through, most commonly grain, sawdust or straw.

Trich: Trichoderm or green mould, the most common contaminant when cultivating mushrooms.

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