Whether you’re eating them, making tea or using them medicinally, you almost certainly know what the fruit of a mushroom is. However, the science behind how mushrooms reproduce and grow is unknown to most. In this article, we’ll take a deeper dive into mushroom spores, the one-cell structure that is a vital part of reproduction for these often tasty and beneficial organisms.
The Science Behind Mushroom Spores: A Closer Look
Let’s start by defining what a fungus is: a yeast, mold or mushroom that can be single-celled (yeast) or multicellular (mushrooms). Though most of these organisms are microscopic, the fruiting bodies of mushrooms are often easily visible to the human eye. Fungi don’t produce their own food, as plants do, but break down food, like animals do. However, their reproduction can happen in multiple ways, as with plants. Mushrooms decompose dead cells of other organisms, typically wood or other plant life.
Now that we know what a fungus is, let’s look more specifically at mushrooms. A mushroom, as most people think of it, is the fruiting body of the organism. Like a fruit, it’s the part of the organism that is grown for reproductive purposes. Rather than creating fruit that bears seeds to produce more plants, however, mushroom fruiting bodies produce spores, a thing of mystery to most. They’re relatively simple, one-celled structures that allow the mushroom to reproduce.
On the most common types of fruiting bodies of mushrooms, you’ll often see gills on the underside of caps, which have microscopic structures called hyphae, which have spores growing from them. One gill will have many hyphae, and each of the hyphae has spores. Other types of mushrooms have structures other than gills, but the process is generally very similar. The hyphae themselves are too large to travel far from the parent mushroom, but spores are tiny and can travel vast distances on small breezes, in water and on or inside insects. This allows the spore to travel to its own food source, making it successful in growth.
A spore is so tiny that 1,000 would easily fit on the head of a pin. As they travel, some of the spores will remain dormant while others will land in areas with appropriate environmental conditions. These can include temperature, chemical compounds, food and sufficient moisture. Germination is a process that takes 20 minutes to 15 hours. These germinated spores will form mycelium into the food source and often exchange nutrients with plant roots nearby in a symbiotic relationship. The mycelium forms the body of the mushroom, which is typically hidden from view.
The spore grows hyphae, the reproductive organs of the mushroom, which are also under the surface of the food source, whether it’s plant matter underground or through the wood of a tree. Fruiting bodies can be formed from this structure, which is why you’ll often find many of the same type of mushroom within an area, but these are genetically identical and do not provide genetic diversity, releasing genetically identical spores unless a mutation has occurred.
Mushrooms can’t create a new life form with unique genetic traits without the hyphae of another mushroom. When two hyphae reach each other and are compatible, a mating point is formed between the two mushrooms. At this point, each mushroom forms a haploid cell. The two haploid cells, one from each parent mushroom, then fuse in a fashion similar to animal fertilization, and new spores are formed with unique genetic traits. Mushroom Spores Syringes can be used for mushroom cultivating as well.
Using Premium mushroom spores, plentiful mushrooms can be produced asexually and sexually and are released from fruiting bodies that are the most commonly recognized part of the organism. They have aspects in their nature that are common to plants and animals while providing decomposition in nature. In this way, mushrooms are truly unique organisms with aspects of both.