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Mushrooms in Terrariums: What Are They There Spore?

Intentionally or not, mushrooms can often appear spontaneously in terrariums.

They can sometimes hitch a ride in our plants and substrates, or their spores can literally find their way in through the air at any time.

To be honest, they can actually be quite hard to stop if you’re using native plants and materials… but is it a problem?

People often want to know if there’s a cause for alarm, but then a lot of people also welcome their surprise terrarium additions. Well, rest assured there’s nothing to panic about. These spongy fruit friends pose no immediate harm to your plants and are easily removed.

In this article, we’ll cover exactly what mushrooms growing in terrarium means and what action you need to take (if any).

Getting Down With the Fungi Terrarium

Much like our terrarium clean up crew – the springtails and isopods – mushroom fungi are saprophytes. Meaning they love to feed on decaying organic matter.

Which is why you’ll typically find mushrooms growing out of fallen logs, branches and mossy mounds in the wild.

Quite a beautiful way to harvest and regenerate organic matter really.

So, unless your plants are dead or dying, mushrooms are unlikely to want a piece. In fact, in many ways they’re a natural process that can help your terrarium stay clean and healthy.

They often pop up in terrariums because they thrive in warm, moist environments. But generally, they don’t last very long.

After all, the part that we recognise as a mushroom is actually a fruit!

Well, a fruit of the fungus (not a regular fruit) but just like a banana or apple, they’re only designed to last a matter of days or weeks.

So really, what we consider to be a mushroom is just the tip of the iceberg that we can see – the majority of the organism lies underground in the mycelium.

A mycelium in action

The mycelium is essentially a network of filaments known as hyphae. Just like the roots of plants, they spread out through substrates in search of nutrients. Whilst the fruiting body of a mushroom rapidly decays, the mycelium network remains and can continue to sprout more mushroom fruit.

So, we kind of know it’s not realistic to preserve mushrooms in our terrariums for long, but a healthy mycelium can continue to provide. Mushrooms tend to be slow growers though, and it can take months to see any sprout so patience is key.

Removing Mushrooms from a Terrarium

If you’re not super hot on the idea of mushrooms in your terrarium, you can generally quite easily remove them with a pair of tweezers (or at worst you may need to get some scissors).

Or, just bear in mind that most mushrooms will only last a matter of weeks at most before they decay.

If you want to stop them showing up altogether, that’s a much more difficult task.

  • Reduce the amount of warmth or moisture in your terrarium if your plants can handle it.
  • Mushrooms need air exchange, so sealing off your terrarium can help (though this may only stop the fruiting, I don’t think it kills the mycelium).
  • Remove contaminated hardscape and refresh the substrate.

In reality, mushroom spores are fairly ubiquitous. Unless you live in a pharmaceutical clean room there’s a reasonable chance of mushroom spores contaminating your terrarium at some point.

So, there’s not much point in waging war against the fungi kingdom – you won’t win.

So, What Is a Mushroom Terrarium?

Yes mushroom terrariums are a thing, but they’re often very different to a plant terrarium.

For me at least, the term “mushroom terrarium” would suggest a lovely natural woodland environment where mushrooms can flourish year-round.

But in reality, it’s more synonymous with sterile growing chambers.

A typical mushroom terrarium setup is essentially a miniature glass food factory designed to grow as much edible mushroom as possible with minimal substrate and resources.

I’m not knocking them (growing your own mushrooms to eat is amazing!) but as far as living art goes, they’re not much to look at.

Aesthetic Living Mushroom Terrariums

Keeping mushrooms in terrariums for aesthetic purposes is possible, but can actually be quite challenging. Mushrooms need different things to plants in order to thrive, and depending on the species they can have much shorter life cycles.

Here’s a gorgeous example of how to do it right.

But the creator of this mushroom terrarium does go on to explain that the mushroom fruit only last for a couple of weeks, and the mycelium spout fruit up to 3 times a year.

So in reality, you’re only seeing a mushroom terrarium for 6 weeks of the year.

Glowing Mushroom Terrariums?

So, these seem to be a thing too.

I can see why. As a diehard nerd, this concept speaks to me, but as with most things in grow-your-own kits – I’m sceptical (I’ve already experienced the disappointment that is sea monkeys, I’m not sure I’m ready to try again).

I’m inclined to believe that finding your own bioluminescent mushrooms in the wild, or from spores (Panellus stipticus appears to be a common one) is going to be better than a cheap kit. But, just know that it’s not going to be easy to cultivate into a nightlight that you can see from more than 6 inches away…

Over to You

Do you like mushrooms in your terrarium?

Or do you have a solid way of keeping them in your terrarium (for more than a few days)? Let us know in the comments!

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Hi! I’m Dan. Welcome to Terrarium Tribe. We’re a collective of people who love to build and care for natural plant terrariums. Join us!

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