Key to the Ecological Roles of Fungi<< Start Over

Fungi have different roles in nature - the most common are

  • Parasites (which feed off of, or sometimes kill the living organisms they grow on)
  • Saprobes (which break down dead wood, soil, or other material)
  • Mutualists (which form mycorrhizae, mutually beneficial relationships with oak or pine trees)
If you have a mushroom or other fungus, this key will show you what role it plays in its environment. Grasslands and wetlands mostly contain saprobes, while healthy oak or pine woodlands usually have a mixture of all three types.

Disclaimer : this is a nontechnical key for anyone's use. It does not try to cover every single type of fungus, but will have an accuracy rate of about 95% (at least in the central United States).

What is the mushroom or fungus growing on?

This includes logs, tree trunks,
branches, sticks, etc.

An extremely rotted log can also
function like soil in this situation.

Leaves, other mushrooms, etc.
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