organism that lives on and may act to decay dead organic matter (contrast with epiphyte and parasite).

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
saprophyte (noun)
a organism - saprophytic
saprophyte (Wikipedia)
Mycelial cord made up of a collection of hyphae; an essential part in the process of saprotrophic nutrition, it is used for the intake of organic matter through its cell wall. The network of hyphae is referred to as a mycelium, which is fundamental to fungal nutrition.

Saprotrophic nutrition /sæprəˈtrɒfɪk, -pr-/ or lysotrophic nutrition is a process of chemoheterotrophic extracellular digestion involved in the processing of decayed (dead or waste) organic matter. It occurs in saprotrophs, and is most often associated with fungi (for example Mucor) and soil bacteria. Saprotrophic microscopic fungi are sometimes called saprobes; saprotrophic plants or bacterial flora are called saprophytes (sapro- + -phyte, "rotten material" + "plant"), though it is now believed that all plants previously thought to be saprotrophic are in fact parasites of microscopic fungi or other plants. The process is most often facilitated through the active transport of such materials through endocytosis within the internal mycelium and its constituent hyphae.

Various word roots relating to decayed matter (detritus, sapro-), eating and nutrition (-vore, -phage), and plants or life forms (-phyte, -obe) produce various terms, such as detritivore, detritophage, saprotroph, saprophyte, saprophage, and saprobe; their meanings overlap, although technical distinctions (based on physiologic mechanisms) narrow the senses. For example, usage distinctions can be made based on macroscopic swallowing of detritus (as an earthworm does) versus microscopic lysis of detritus (as a mushroom does).

A facultative saprophyte appears on stressed or dying plants and may combine with the live pathogens.[citation needed].

« Back to Glossary Index
Scroll to Top