I think bhūmipappaṭaka is the fungal mycelia of a mycorrhizal network

In the Aggaññasutta (DN 27) there is a series of vegetations that evolve as foodstuff for beings. It’s not always obvious what exactly they are.

After the disappearance of the first food, “earth nectar”, there appears bhūmipappaṭaka. Bhūmi is “earth, ground”, while pappaṭaka is said in Pali dictionaries to be a water plant or a mushroom.

The Sanskrit parallels here have parpaṭaka, which is the same in both the Hybrid Sanskrit Mahavastu and the Mulasarvativada Vinaya in classical Sanskrit. The dominant sense is a “thin cake” (“papadam”), but as so often with Sanskrit there are several other senses too.

The reading here is unclear, as some Pali manuscripts have pappāṭika. There is another Sanskrit word prapāṭikā in the sense of a young sprout or tendril, while the Pali papaṭikā (or pappaṭikā) is said to mean either “bark” or “sprout”.

The unifying sense of “thin cake” and “bark” would be “crust”, and perhaps that is the sense here, a layer or crust formed on the earth.

But there is another reference at pli-tv-bu-vb-pj1:2.2.5, where Moggallāna suggests that, to alleviate famine, the monks might eat the pappaṭakojaṁ (“pappaṭaka-nutrition”) under the earth. It seems hard to reconcile this with the sense “crust”, and more likely it is a kind of tendril that lives underground.

In DN 27, they are compared to mushrooms. I think these are the fungal mycelia of a mycorrhizal network. Such fungi spread like tendrils underground, sometimes appearing above the surface, and facilitate sharing of nutrients and information between organisms.

I will probably translate it, then, as “ground-fungus”. @Brahmali you currently have “sprouts”, what do you think?


7934 párpaṭa ¹ m. ‘thin cake of rice or pease-meal’ lex., parpaṭī - f. W. 2. *pharpaṭa-. [Forms of K. S. L. P. with ā are ← Centre rather than < *pārpaṭa -] 1. Pa. bhūmi-pappaṭaka - m. ‘a kind of mushroom (?)’ BHS ii 333; Pk. pappaḍa -, °ḍaga - m., °ḍiyā - f., pappala - m. ‘a thin cake’; Bshk. papar ‘large bread’; Sh. (Lor.) pΛpaõ , pΛphaõ ‘thin cake of bread’;
A Comparative Dictionary of Indo-Aryan Languages

So it seems to be related to Papadam. :yum:

Interesting that only Pāli has a relation to mushrooms, but the other languages relate it to a thin cake or bread.

By the way prapāṭikā seems to be papaṭikā in Pāli, so that is another word.


Yeah, sounds reasonable. I’ll probably adopt it, too. Thanks!


Thanks, I actually got the spelling of the Sanskrit wrong, it should be parpaṭaka, which is the same in both the Hybrid Sanskrit Mahavastu and the Mulasarvativada Vinaya in classical Sanskrit. I’ve corrected it in the OP. There does seem some confusion in the forms, though.

Anyway as you say the dominant sense seems to be a “thin cake”, which would seem to relate to the Pali papaṭikā = “bark”?

One of the Sanskrit senses is “a kind of fragrant earth”, but this might be derived from our passage.


Thanks Ajahn. I wonder how the Pali dictionaries arrive at ‘mushroom’ for pappataka, they don’t give any etymology. In Sanskrit the common word for mushroom is Chattra(ka) and this in Pali is Chattaka. From Chattaka to Pappataka is quite a leap (though not impossible as another dialect?)

There is also bhūmicchattra as a name for the mushroom. Chattra or Chatta might have original been a ‘parasol’ and maybe they called the mushroom then an ‘earth parasol’. Of course could also been the other way around. :sweat_smile:

EDIT: Ok, Bhumichhatra is apparently also the Ayurvedic name for the Agaricus Campestris which is a kind of mushroom with a round hood. Unique to Raigarh (which is not too far from the Majjhima-desa.

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Sounds to me more like lichens.

They are a pioneer species (establish themselves on a disturbed environment) and are super hardy withstanding environmental stressors and adaptive ( sorry plant nerd and I find them super cool!)

People do tend to mix them up with mushrooms.

They do grow on the ground, exhibit leafy or crust-like growth, and are eaten in some cultures.

Interesting also that lichens evolved much later than ground plants…

(And yes @Danny, papadams rule :grin:)


Probably just from this passage. :person_shrugging: Once you start digging down to these things, there’s often just a single entry.

I never thought they would be related, more likely it’s a dialectical word, or simply a word for another thing (fungus vs mushroom).

The pappataka grows under the ground, that’s the key to identifying it as mycelium.

Well then, you’ll enjoy this. I learned about mycelia from Frances Bodkin. She has been researching plant associations in Sydney, and often their relationships are mediated by the mycelia. Amazing human, and amazing understanding!