Mushroom compost must be inoculated with mushroom spawn (Latin expandere = to spread out) if one expects mushrooms to grow. The mushroom itself is the fruit of a plant as tomatoes are of tomato plants. Within the tomato one finds seeds, and these are used to start the next season’s crop. Microscopic spores form within a mushroom cap, but their small size precludes handling them like seeds. As the tomato comes from a plant with roots, stems, and leaves, the mushroom arises from thin, thread-like cells called mycelium. Fungus mycelium is the white, thread-like plant often seen on rotting wood or moldy bread. Mycelium can be propagated vegetatively, like separating daffodil bulbs and getting more daffodil plants. Specialized facilities are required to propagate mycelium, so the mushroom mycelium does not get mixed with the mycelium of other fungi. Mycelium propagated vegetatively is known as spawn, and commercial mushroom farmers purchase spawn from any of about a dozen spawn companies.
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