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Introduction to Matsutake

Matsutake mushroom is the fruit of matsutake mycelium. Matsutake mycelium is a fungus which mantles (coats), a trees roots. The mycelium provides the tree with water and nutrients. Trees provide food for the mycelium. Tree and fungus form a symbiotic relationship.

Photo provided by OSU

Harvesting mushrooms is much like picking an apple. The fruit is removed but the organism remains to fruit again.

Environmental conditions which determine why the mycelium is present are unknown. Preliminary investigations indicate soil decomposition as a part of ecosystem function. The mycelium moves through the soil changing soil composition and unlocking nutrients. Progression through soils varies greatly depending on a variety of conditions: Host age, soil type, moisture, litter depth, competing mycelium, and canopy closure are a few. Movement may be noted by observing fruit positioning. 

Fruit production occurs in the active area, or leading edge, of the mycelium. Fruit has been noted to remained stationary or advanced 1 to 5 centimeters per year. Some advancement is noted in most cases. Matsutake also changes the physical appearance of the mineral soils. Areas moved through have a bleached look. Active area is a light   powder blue, areas not yet colonized are darker, or natural soil color.

Moved Through

Active Area

Not Yet Colonized

Drawing below shows fruit growth progression.

Photo from Ecology and Management of Commercially Harvested Matsutake Mushroom. (PNW-GTR-412)

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