Difference Between Hyphae and Mycelium

Main Difference – Hyphae vs Mycelium

Hyphae and mycelium are two terms used to describe the fungus body. Fungi are eukaryotes that feed by decomposing food in their surroundings. This decomposition takes place by secreting digestive enzymes on the food and absorbing the nutrients to the cell. The secretion of digestive enzymes and the absorbance of nutrients occur through the fungal hyphae. Therefore, fungi are heterotrophs. However, some fungi may live as symbionts and some fungi live as parasites. Fungi reproduce both sexually and asexually by the means of spores. The main difference between hyphae and mycelium is that hyphae are the filaments which make up the mycelium whereas mycelium is the whole mass of hyphae. 

Key Areas Covered

1. What are Hyphae
      – Definition, Features, Function
2. What is Mycelium
      – Definition, Features, Function
3. What are the Similarities Between Hyphae and Mycelium
      – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Hyphae and Mycelium
      – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Dikaryotic Mycelium, Fruit Bodies, Fungi, Heterokaryotic Mycelium, Heterotrophs, Hyphae, Mycelium, Septa, SpitzenkörperDifference Between Hyphae and Mycelium - Comparison Summary

What are Hyphae

The branching tubular cells of the fungal body are referred to as hyphae. Hyphae can also be found in oomycetes and actinobacterium. The hypha is the main mode of vegetative growth in fungi.  Fungal hyphae are protected by a rigid cell wall. Hyphae can contain one or more cells, surrounded by a cell wall. In most species, hyphae are separated by walls called septa. Septa are a type of internal cross-walls. However, septa consist of small pores inside it to transport organelles between the cells of the hyphae. The growth of the hyphae occurs at their tip. The intracellular organelle associated with the growth at the tip is spitzenkörper. Since spitzenkörper is a part of the endomembrane system, it releases the vesicles received from the Golgi apparatus. When the spitzenkörper moves along with the apex of the hyphae, an apical growth of the hyphae can be observed. The rate of the apical growth depends on the speed of the movement of the spitzenkörper along the hyphae.

Difference Between Hyphae and Mycelium

Figure 1: Structure of the hyphae
1- Hyphal wall 2- Septum 3- Mitochondrion 4- Vacuole 5- Ergosterol crystal 6- Ribosome 7- Nucleus 8- Endoplasmic reticulum 9- Lipid body 10- Plasma membrane 11- Spitzenkörper 12- Golgi apparatus

In parasitic fungi, the hyphae form haustoria, absorbing nutrients from the host cell. In addition, some hyphae do not contain septa inside the hyphae. These types of hyphae are called aseptate hyphae. Yeasts are single-cell fungi which are capable of forming pseudohyphae. The structure of the hyphae is shown in figure 1. 

What is Mycelium

Mycelium is the mass of branched hyphae in fungi. The mycelium is a spread structure which forms the vegetative thallus of fungi. Hence, mycelium is the vegetative part of the multicellular fungi. The mycelium of fungi can be found in soil as well as on various organic materials. The homokaryotic mycelium is formed by the germination of a single spore. Two compatible homokaryotic mycelia can join together to form a dikaryotic mycelium, which ultimately forms the fruit bodies of the fungi. The homokaryotic mycelium is only capable of asexually reproducing while dikaryotic mycelium can sexually reproduce.

Key Difference - Hyphae vs  Mycelium

Figure 2: Fungal Mycelium

Fungal mycelia play a vital role in both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems by involving in the decomposition of organic materials. Mycelial mats serve as biological filters which remove microorganisms from water and soil. The fungal mycelium is shown in figure 2

Similarities Between Hyphae and Mycelium

  • Since hyphae are the building block of mycelium, the characteristics and functions of both hyphae and mycelium are similar.
  • Both hyphae and mycelium decompose food in their surroundings.

Difference Between Hyphae and Mycelium


Hyphae: Hyphae are the branching filaments which make up the mycelium.

Mycelium: Mycelium is the vegetative part of the fungus, consisting of fine, white filaments called hyphae.


Hyphae: Hypha is the building blocks of the fungus.

Mycelium: Mycelium or the body of the fungus is the collection of hyphae.


Hyphae: The hyphae look like filaments, threads or strands.

Mycelium: The mycelium looks like a patch of threads or strands.

Functional Level

Hyphae: Hyphae function in micro level.

Mycelium: Mycelium functions in macro level.


Hyphae and mycelium are two structures in the body of fungi. Hyphae are the filaments which are composed of several cells at their tip. The digestive enzymes are secreted on the external organic material by fungal hyphae. Moreover, hyphae absorb the digested nutrients. Hyphae form the mycelium. The mycelium looks like a patch of threads. The main difference between hyphae and mycelium is the complexity of each structure in the fungal body.


1. “HYPHAL STRUCTURE.” Mycology – Structure and Function – Hyphal Structure. N.p., n.d. Web. Available here. 25 July 2017. 
2. “What Are Mycelia in Microbiology?” Sciencing. N.p., n.d. Web. Available here. 25 July 2017.  

Image Courtesy:

1. “HYPHAE” By AHiggins12 – Own work – reference image – found here (retrieved May 2012) (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Mushroom’s roots (mycélium)” By The original uploader was Lex vB at Dutch Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things. She has a keen interest in writing articles regarding science.

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