The common life of plants and fungi
Did you know that over 90% of land plants exist in a beneficial partnership with fungi? Laccaria bicolor, or as it’s known in Swedish “tvåfärgad laxskivling” is such a beneficial fungus that partners up with tree roots in forest soils to form fungus-roots, also called mycorrhizae. The word mycorrhiza comes from Greek language where myco means fungus and rhiza means root.
Fungal hyphae under the microscope
Like other mycorrhizal fungi Laccaria bicolor forms extensive networks underground of thin cells, called hyphae. The hyphal network acquires nutrients from the soil and transfers it to the plant in exchange for sugars. This nutrient exchange benefits the growth of both the plant and the fungal underground network as well as fruiting body (the mushrooms we pick) formation aboveground.
Laccaria bicolor is a model fungus for researchers. It can be easily cultured in the lab. In the pictures below you can see the hyphae forming a dense network, called mycelium, in a sterile culture in the lab. This is basically what the fungus also looks like in the soil. You can also distinguish the origin of its name ”bicolor”: it can either be light beige or violet. The hyphae on the right image were fotographed directly on the culture plate with a stereomicroscope.
We put Laccaria hyphae under the microscope and stained them with a dye called Uvitex. UVitex is fluorescent and binds to chitin, which is a typical component of the fungal cell wall. The stained hyphae were viewed under a confocal microscope, which is a special type of fluorescent microscope. The hyphae are about 1000x magnified. The hyphal structure is made up of long tubes that contain septa (cross walls) and clamp connections that help deliver nuclei to each segment of hypha. The septa and clamp connections are the brighter areas on the hyphae
Our Laccaria bicolor hyphae pattern
We loved this filigree and delicate hyphal structures and made it into an intricate pattern in a variety of colours. Do you have a favourite? Linen with this pattern is available currently (2020-Nov) at Tygverket Stockholm.