Non-symbiotic microorganisms engineered or expensively selected to degrade xenobiotic hydrocarbons or modify heavy-metal uptake of plants in soil remediations die back after their introduction into the target soils. Mycelia of saprobic basidiomycetes were therefore inoculated into soil samples of 1 l in glass vessels to record mycelial growth and reproduction in the immediate rhizosphere of up to 11 herbaceous plant species, or to study their responses to the separate volatiles from whole plant swards or their root balls whose emanations had been collected in 1.5-l plastic bags fixed to the glass vessels. Excess CO2 was controlled with NaOH solution. Volatiles from root balls of parsley and pea but not wheat, from unplanted soils, from the fungus-permeated, unplanted substrate soil itself, and from the rooting soil of whole wheat sward increased mycelial densities in Clitocybe sp. more than in Agaricus macrocarpus and indicated thus a higher nutrient state of the mycelia. Organic volatiles proved therefore to be a significant carbon source for certain basidiomycetes in poor natural soils. The contemporary decline in the number of basidiocarp initials to 0 to 36% in both fungi relative to the unplanted and aerated controls was caused by volatiles from rooted and unplanted soil and pointed thus to their ecological role as antibiotics, fumigants, toxins, and hormonal compounds. Aqueous extracts from root balls of wheat stimulated mycelial density and fruiting in A. macrocarpus contemporarily because of their contents in soil-derived macronutrients. They suppressed once more fruiting in the more sensitive Clitocybe sp. by active agents in the aqueous phase. Within plant rhizospheres, densities of Clitocybe sp. mycelia were stimulated in the presence of alfalfa, carrot, red clover, ryegrass, and spinach, whereas those of A. macrocarpus were halved by 7 of 10 plant species including alfalfa, red clover, ryegrass, and spinach. Mycelia of A. macrocarpus may thereby have responded to differences in concentration and composition of volatile compounds. The contemporary repression of fruiting in both fungi and in nearly all treatments was not due to plant competition for macronutrients. Mycelia of basidiomycetes over-compensated for losses in macronutrients to the plant by decomposing soil matrix constituents. It is concluded that organic volatiles emitted by several plant organs and natural soils improved the nutritional state of A. macrocarpus and Clitocybe sp. but not of Agaricus bisporus mycelia and could therefore help establish certain ground fungi in the field. The contemporary and general suppression of fruiting by constituents of the gaseous (and liquid) phase in all fungi examined suggests interference with basic physiological processes and recommends an urgent re-examination of the degradative ability of basidiomycetes in the presence of volatiles.