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..
As matter decomposes within a medium in which a saprotroph is residing, the saprotroph breaks such matter down into its composites.
These products are re-absorbed into the hypha through the cell wall via endocytosis and passed on throughout the mycelium complex. This facilitates the passage of such materials throughout the organism and allows for growth and, if necessary, repair.
In order for a saprotrophic organism to facilitate optimal growth and repair, favourable conditions and nutrients must be present. Optimal conditions refers to several conditions which optimise the growth of saprotrophic organisms, such as;