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Environmental Care - Conservation
& Foraging Etiquette

With this page, we aim to dispel myths about how mycelium works while promoting effective conservation practices. By doing so, we can reduce our impact on the ecosystem and contribute to the flourishing of all species we coexist with, in our environment.

The Fruit of the Tree - To Pull or Cut?

This is an argument that pops up every year in mushroom identification groups when people see others using a harvesting technique that they believe to be inferior to their own, as far as conservational practices may go. The fact of the matter is...

IT DOESN'T ACTUALLY MATTER! Though the results of a long-running study in Switzerland (nearly 30 years) suggest that pulling may be slightly better than cutting, due to the fact that cutting can leave the fruit's cells severed and open to bacterial infection. Though fungi aren't plants, a good analogy to make is to think of a mushroom as the fruit of the tree, and the tree is actually the mycelial network under the ground or in the substrate that the mycelial network is fruiting from. You might hear people saying things like "You shouldn't pull out all the roots!". Mushrooms don't actually have roots, the white furry strings and ropes that you see coming from the base of the mushroom stipe is the mycelium, the organism that is producing the fruit. This network can be far bigger than the area that you can see fruiting above ground. The practice that is going to harm the mycelial network the most actually has nothing to do with how you harvest the fruit, and everything to do with how you go about walking through your patch lightly on your feet, as studies show that trampling the mycelium is the most detrimental part of harvesting mushrooms from a patch. Here is a link to one of the long-term studies if you would like to read more about how different practices affected different colonies in this study that were put under different conditions of harvesting and trampling, or not:


A mushroom that has been picked? or a mushroom that has been cut? Which is better? Find out here.
Psilocybe subaeruginosa mycelium imagesused in conjunction with an article on the lifecycleof the mushroom written by Beau Ewen for the Psilver Linings NZ Harm Reduction Website

The Fascinating Lifecycle of Mycelium and Mushrooms.

To pick a pin, or not to pick a pin?

Understanding the lifecycle and reproductive cycle of mycelium and mushrooms provides valuable insights into the intricate world of fungi. Let's delve into this remarkable process and explore the implications of picking pins from a mushroom patch before their partial veils have broken, as well as the significance of considering the larger ecosystem.

It's important to note that different mushroom species have specific preferences and requirements for each stage of growth. Understanding these factors for each species that you find or intend to find, and tailoring when and where you look with regard to environment and conditions accordingly, can help optimize your identification skills with regard to what species you may be finding at what times of year.

The journey begins with spores. 

When a spore lands on a suitable substrate, such as soil, decaying organic matter, or wood, it can initiate the germination process.


Germination is triggered by specific environmental conditions, including moisture, temperature, and nutrient availability.

The first step in germination is the absorption of water by the spore. As the spore takes in water, it swells and becomes activated. This rehydration process reawakens the dormant spore and prepares it for further growth.


Once the spore has absorbed enough water, it develops a structure called a germ tube. The germ tube emerges from the spore, extending and branching out into a network of filamentous structures called hyphae. These hyphae are the building blocks of mycelium.

The hyphae continue to elongate and branch out, exploring the surrounding substrate. As they grow, they secrete enzymes that break down complex organic compounds, such as cellulose or lignin, into simpler forms that the fungus can absorb as nutrients.


As the hyphae extend and intertwine, they form a complex web known as mycelium.


Mycelium, the intricate network of thread-like structures that permeate through the soil or substrate, acts as the vegetative body of the fungus, serving as a network for nutrient uptake and distribution. Mycelium plays a vital role in decomposing organic matter and facilitating nutrient absorption.


Under favourable conditions, the mycelium continues to grow, spreading through the substrate and colonizing new areas. It may also establish symbiotic relationships with plants or other organisms, contributing to nutrient exchange and ecological interactions.


With time and the right environmental cues, the mycelium matures and if conditions become favourable it will develop reproductive structures, such as fruiting bodies or mushrooms. These structures serve as the means for spore production and dispersal, completing the fungal life cycle.

Mushrooms start their growth from mycelium as primordia. Primordia are the initial structures that form during mushroom development. They emerge from the mycelium when specific conditions are met. Temperature, humidity, and nutrient availability play crucial roles in triggering the formation of primordia. Typically, primordia develop when environmental conditions are favourable, including a suitable temperature range (varies by mushroom species but can be between 12-25°C), high humidity (around 80-90%), and sufficient nutrients in the substrate.

The next stage is knotting. Knotting refers to the aggregation of mycelium into dense knots. This stage occurs after the formation of primordia. Knotting is influenced by factors such as temperature, humidity, and airflow. Lower temperatures (around 10-15°C) and increased humidity encourage knotting. If proper airflow isn't sufficient to ensure adequate gas exchange at this point in growth, overly dense knots will form, which may hinder the development of primordia.

The primordial knots then emerge as tiny buds, often referred to as pins.

Pinning marks the stage where small, pin-like structures emerge from the knots or primordial structures. Pinning is influenced by factors including temperature, humidity, light, and air quality. Generally, cooler temperatures (10-15°C or below) and high humidity (around 90%) promote pinning. Sufficient indirect light is also important for the development of healthy pins. 


These pins gradually grow and develop into the iconic umbrella-shaped caps with distinct stems that we associate with mushrooms.

Fruiting is the final stage where mature mushrooms develop and reach their full size. During this stage, mushrooms grow, expand their caps, and develop gills or other spore-bearing structures. Fruiting is heavily influenced by temperature, humidity, light, and air circulation. Ideal fruiting conditions vary among mushroom species but typically involve slightly higher daytime temperatures (above 15°C), slightly lower humidity (around 80-90%), sufficient light, and good air circulation.


At this stage, a thin membrane called the partial veil covers the gills or pores located on the underside of the cap while the fruit is young.


Spore dispersal is a critical phase in the reproductive cycle of mushrooms. Mature mushrooms produce spores within their gills or pores. When the time is right, the partial veil ruptures or breaks, exposing the spore-bearing structures. These lightweight spores are then dispersed by various means, including wind, animals, insects, or even water. This dispersal mechanism allows fungi to colonize new areas and contributes to the biodiversity and regeneration of fungal communities. Spores are where the initial germination process takes place for a new mycelial network to begin in an uncolonized area of substrate. 


Picking pins from a mushroom patch before their partial veils have broken can hinder the natural process of spore dispersal. By doing so, the spores that would have been released into the environment to initiate new growth in surrounding areas are prematurely interrupted from being produced until another flush of fruit comes through. While it may not have a significant impact on the immediate patch that you're picking from today, it does disrupt the natural spread of mycelium to nearby suitable areas that could have been potentially inoculated and eventually developed into fruiting patches by the time the patch that you're picking today has been depleted of nutrients and no longer fruits. This disruption affects the broader ecosystem and the potential for the establishment of new colonies of mushrooms in the surrounding environment.

Remember when picking from a woodchip bed that is already fully colonized with mycelium, the immediate impact may be minimal on that patch of substrate, as it has already been extensively colonized and may not require additional spores for its development, however, it's crucial to consider the long-term implications. Picking pins in such situations can limit the natural spread of mycelium to adjacent areas that might be suitable for colonization and future fruiting.

In conclusion, the lifecycle and reproductive cycle of mycelium and mushrooms are fascinating processes that contribute to the diversity and sustainability of fungal communities. Being mindful of the implications of picking pins before their partial veils have broken ensures the natural dispersal of spores and allows for the expansion of mycelium to new areas. By respecting the lifecycle and considering the larger ecosystem, we can contribute to the preservation and thriving of these incredible organisms in their natural habitats.

Sustainable Mushroom Foraging:

Enhancing Mycelium Growth through Stem Butt Placement..

When it comes to sustainable mushroom foraging, there's a simple yet effective practice that can significantly contribute to the continued health and longevity of your mushroom patch. By carefully placing the stem butts of mushrooms back into a suitable, uncolonized substrate, you can provide a head start for the mycelium to colonize and establish new patches or improve the health of your current one. This approach holds greater potential for successful inoculation and continued growth, rather than simply refraining from picking pins. Let's explore how this method benefits the mycelium and ensures a sustainable cycle of mushroom foraging.


Promoting Mycelium Growth and New Colonization:

When you harvest mushrooms, you're essentially removing the reproductive part of the fungus, leaving behind the mycelium—a network of thread-like structures that permeates the substrate. The mycelium is responsible for nutrient absorption and the formation of mushrooms. By recycling stem butts you are providing an opportunity for the mycelium to quickly colonize and establish itself.


Creating New Patches:

The stem butts serve as a source of mycelium, which contains the genetic material necessary for the formation of new mushrooms. By introducing these stem butts into fresh substrate, you're effectively jump-starting the colonization process. This practice helps establish new patches and extends the lifespan of your mushroom foraging area.

Enhancing Success Rates:

Compared to refraining from picking pins, which primarily prevents immediate fruiting, placing stem butts back into suitable substrate offers a more proactive and advantageous approach. By giving the mycelium a headstart, you significantly enhance the chances of successful inoculation. The mycelium can quickly spread and establish a robust network, leading to a bountiful flush in the future.


Sustainable Mushroom Foraging:

Adopting this stem butt placement practice aligns with the principles of sustainable mushroom foraging. By promoting mycelium growth and facilitating new colonization, you contribute to the longevity and productivity of the mushroom patches that you forage. It is important, however, to ensure that the substrate you introduce the stem butts to is suitable for the specific mushroom species that you're trying to help conserve.


Incorporating stem butt placement into your mushroom foraging routine is an excellent way to maintain a sustainable cycle. By giving the mycelium a head start towards colonizing new substrate, you encourage the establishment of fresh patches and maximize the potential for future flushes. Remember to practice responsible foraging and ensure the suitability of the substrate for the specific mushroom species. Happy foraging!

Sanitizer to Boot

One of the best things that you can do for the environment that you're foraging in, is to CLEAN YOUR BOOTS before entering the bush so as not to carry any fungal/bacterial infections from an infected area into an uninfected area.

You could be potentially putting many species, including the ones that you're looking for, at risk of catching a potentially life-threatening infection for that species' colony. If there is ANY dirt or organic matter on your shoes or boots, then you are potentially spreading contamination, as microbial infections aren't able to be seen by the naked eye.

To ensure cleanliness, use a brush to remove debris from your footwear, followed by washing with water to eliminate any visible plant material and soil. For additional sanitization, employ a footbath containing a potent sanitizing product. Alternatively, you can treat your shoes with a disinfecting solution using a spray bottle. Another good practice is to have a specific pair of foraging boots that you only wear when foraging which are cleaned before being taken/worn into a new area.

A Psilver Linings Team Member washes their boots to prevent kauri dieback before heading in to a protected kauri forest area to study mushrooms in their environment.
It's important to follow local regulations and rules when entering conservation areas and reserves when forging for mushrooms in NZ.

Kauri Dieback

Kauri dieback is a devastating disease affecting New Zealand's iconic kauri trees. It is caused by a microscopic pathogen known as Phytophthora agathidicida. The disease attacks the roots of kauri trees, leading to their decline and eventual death. Unfortunately, kauri dieback is spreading rapidly, posing a significant threat to these majestic trees and the ecosystems they support. As responsible foragers, it is crucial to take proactive measures to prevent the further spread of kauri dieback.


First and foremost, always ensure that your footwear and equipment are thoroughly clean before entering any kauri forest. The disease can be easily transmitted through contaminated soil and organic matter carried on footwear. Clean your footwear with a brush and then wash them with water to remove all visible soil and debris. Additionally, using a disinfecting footbath containing a recommended sanitizing solution can further reduce the risk of spreading the disease. Pay attention to the instructions on signs at boot cleaning stations to learn how to use them properly if they are present at tracks that you frequent.


When foraging for mushrooms, be mindful of your surroundings and avoid areas where kauri trees are present if possible. Kauri roots can extend far beyond the tree canopy, so it's crucial to minimize soil disturbance and avoid damaging or coming into contact with kauri tree roots. Stick to designated tracks and avoid walking off-path, as this can increase the risk of spreading the disease.


By following these precautions and spreading awareness about kauri dieback, we can play a vital role in preventing its further spread. Together, we can protect these magnificent trees and preserve the natural beauty of New Zealand's forests for generations to come.

For more information on kauri dieback visit:

Your Footprint - Keep it Clean Keep it Green 

In a literal sense, But also as a way of life and interacting with the world that's providing for you.

When foraging for mushrooms in the native New Zealand bush, there are several important topics of environmental care and conservation to consider:

  1. Leave Only Your Footprints: Always practice the "Leave No Trace" principles by minimizing your impact on the environment. Avoid damaging plants, trees, and habitats while moving through the bush. Leave everything as you found it and take any litter or waste with you when you leave, even if it is not our own. Everyone doing their part will help us all to have a cleaner environment to enjoy, with a more flourishing ecosystem.

  2. Sustainable Harvesting: Harvest mushrooms responsibly and sustainably. Only collect what you intend to use and leave enough behind to allow for natural reproduction and continued growth, as well as for other foragers. Avoid over-harvesting and be selective in your picking, choosing mature specimens and leaving younger ones to mature. A nice rule of thumb to go by when there isn't a lot is to harvest by the rule of thirds - "A third for me, a third for the next person, and a third for mother nature." this can be achieved by only picking mature healthy specimens, leaving the younger ones that haven't broken their partial veil yet, to mature and open for the next person, and leaving the older ones that are starting to decay to return to mother nature as food for other creatures, which in turn helps spread spores to other likely environments.

  3. Protecting Biodiversity: Be mindful of the importance of biodiversity in the native bush. While searching for mushrooms, appreciate the diverse range of plant and animal species around you. Avoid disturbing wildlife, nesting areas, and fragile ecosystems. Take care not to damage or remove other fungi, plants, or organisms during your foraging activities.

  4. Education and Awareness: Continuously educate yourself about native fungi, their ecological roles, and their importance to the ecosystem. Learn to identify different mushroom species accurately and understand their ecological relationships. This knowledge will help you make informed decisions while foraging and contribute to the preservation of New Zealand's unique biodiversity.

By practicing these principles and promoting environmental stewardship, we can ensure that foraging for mushrooms in the native NZ bush remains a sustainable and responsible activity that supports the conservation of our natural heritage.

Kauri Tree - Northland NZ. Photo: Alan Rockefeller. Keep your footprint clean and green when foraging for fungi In the bush in NZ.
Be sure to read signs before entering public land to forage for mushrooms or fungi and familiarize yourself wih any legislation that may be in place.

Conservation Areas & Restrictions

Respect any regulations or restrictions in conservation areas or national parks. Some areas may have specific rules or guidelines regarding foraging or mushroom collection. Stay informed and adhere to these regulations to protect the natural environment and preserve it for future generations. 

In New Zealand, the collection of fungi is regulated by the National Parks Act 1980 and the Reserves Act 1977, which govern the protection and management of national parks and reserves, respectively. These legislations aim to preserve the natural and cultural heritage within these areas, including flora, fauna, and fungi. It is important for foragers to be aware of the regulations regarding the collection of fungi in different areas to ensure compliance with the law and promote responsible foraging practices.


Under the National Parks Act 1980, the removal or disturbance of flora, fauna, and fungi within national parks is generally prohibited unless specific permissions or permits are granted for scientific, educational, or conservation purposes. The act emphasizes the importance of maintaining the ecological integrity of these protected areas, safeguarding the diverse range of fungi species that contribute to the park's ecosystem. Foragers should refrain from taking fungi from national parks unless they have obtained the necessary permits and adhere to the specific guidelines set by park authorities.


Similarly, the Reserves Act 1977 governs the management and protection of reserves in New Zealand, including scenic reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, and ecological areas. It prohibits the removal, damage, or disturbance of flora, fauna, and fungi within reserves without proper authorization or permits. The act aims to preserve the ecological balance and integrity of these reserves, ensuring the sustainability of native plant and animal species, as well as the diverse fungi species found within these protected areas.


Foragers should always familiarize themselves with the specific regulations and guidelines established for each national park and reserve. These regulations may vary depending on the specific purpose and conservation objectives of the area. It is important to respect the boundaries and restrictions in place to safeguard natural resources and promote the long-term preservation of New Zealand's flora, fauna, and fungi. Responsible foraging practices involve obtaining the necessary permits, adhering to specific guidelines, and ensuring that the collection of fungi occurs only in areas where it is legally permitted.

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