Mushrooms are neither animals nor plants, but they belong to the fungi kingdom. They don’t ingest food directly like animals, and they also don’t photosynthesize. However, they secret enzymes that are involved in digesting food externally, after which it is absorbed through the mycelium. Another unique and fascinating thing is the mushroom life cycle, which comprises four revolutionary stages.
The duration of the cycle is different for each mushroom and depends on the growing environment and size of the mushroom. With some mushrooms, the cycle is completed within one day, while others can last up to a month.
In this article, we’ll take you through everything you should know about the mushroom life cycle. The main benefit of this knowledge is that it will help you understand what you’re getting into when you buy functional mushroom products. There are many of misleading information in the supplement market today, but we are here to help you provide the clarity you need before you buy any product.
Stage 1: Spores
The life cycle of a mushroom starts with a spore, which is one of the billions that are released from a matured mushroom. There are different structures in mushrooms responsible for the release and production of spores. The most common is the mushroom gills, which are mostly beneath the caps. Other structures that help in the release of spores are the teeth and pores.
Like with plants that spread pollen grains to enhance growth, mushrooms release these spores daily to ensure that new mushroom generations grow. It’s important to note that these spores that are released are too small for the naked eye to see, but they float in the air until they land on a suitable medium to germinate.
In most cases, they settle on other grown mushrooms, and at other times, they are carried by insects or wind to other surfaces. Once the spores find a suitable environment with the right amount of water and nutrients, they start to germinate into the hyphae, which is a new growth stage in the mushroom life cycle.
Stage 2: The Spores Germinate
The spores can easily detect when they are in an environment that is suitable for growth. When in this environment, they will start to germinate into a germ tube. This is basically a multicellular outgrowth from a single-celled pore, and it begins the growth process by differentiating via mitosis to the hyphae. It’s worth mentioning that the hyphae is the basic fungal unit.
Hyphae are thin and long thread-like structures across the growing medium that help in releasing chemicals to dissolve food substances. The hyphae play a key role in nutrient absorption from the soil and transporting these substances to the growing mushroom. With that, the mushroom gets all the energy and nutrients required for even growth.
Another thing to note is that the hyphae contain genetic material, and as such, they are responsible for locating the spores of the opposite sex to bond with. Therefore, they will continue to move until they find their match. When this happens, they will combine to form the cell of two nuclei. This then grows and becomes an organized and dense colony known as the mycelium.
Stage 3: The Mycelium Expands
The role of the mycelium is to provide support, and this is why they grow at an exponential rate to form an underground network. Basically, mycelium helps in breaking down organic materials and plants in the soil. This also helps in releasing nutrients into the soil for plants and other living things to utilize. Another importance of mycelium is that it serves as a delivery system for the exchange of materials between plants and the mushroom.
For example, the plant provides nutrients for the mycelium, while the mycelium offers nutrients and water to the plants. This is a symbiotic relationship that exists between the two organisms. Due to the rapid growth of the mycelium, it is more prone to attacks from competitors and predators. However, it’s able to repel these attacks with the aid of different protective compounds and enzymes that help to keep the mushroom safe.
Preparing for Baby Mushroom
Once the mycelium has all the nutrients required for the continuation of the life cycle, with will wait for the right conditions, especially in terms of light, temperature, and humidity before it continues to create a mushroom. With the right conditions, the mycelium will wind itself to form a hyphal knot, which will then grow into the primordium. This is the part that continues to emerge to the surface of the soil and forms the mushroom pins.
A key thing to note is that there are many products on the market with labels as mushroom supplements. However, these supplements are mostly filled with substrate and mycelium matter, and in some cases, they don’t include the mushroom at all. Genuine mushroom supplements are those that contain 100% mushrooms that develop up until the final stages of the life cycle.
Stage 4: Full-Grown Mushroom Develops
As the primordium progresses with the development of the mushroom, enzymes are released, and this makes nutrients available for the growth and maturation of the mushroom. However, it’s important to note that not all pinheads advance to maturity.
The mushroom then uses its energy and nutrients to develop selected primordia to full maturity. Also, the fully grown mushroom will have the necessary structures for the release of new spores to continue the life cycle and propagation of the mushroom.
Why Should You Care About the Mushroom Life Cycle?
The need to understand the life cycle of a mushroom cannot be overemphasized. This is especially true if you want to know when and how to consume the mushroom. This is also vital for knowing the parts that are rich in nutrients. Basically, the fruiting body of the mushroom is the part that has more active and beneficial compounds, unlike other stages in the life cycle.
This part is rich in antioxidants, triterpenoids, and polysaccharides, all of which are largely responsible for the benefits offered by functional mushrooms including providing support for the immune system. With that said, it’s important to invest only in mushroom supplements with high concentrations of beta-glucans.
Mushrooms vs. Myceliated Grain
As mentioned earlier, most supplements on the market contain mycelium grown on grains, rather than the actual mushrooms. Here are some differences to help you know which supplements contain full grown mushroom, and which contains myceliated grains:
- Full-grown mushroom contains no starch, while myceliated grains are rich in starch, and lack active and beneficial compounds.
- Myceliated grains have low beta-glucan, while full-grown mushrooms have high beta-glucan content.
- Full-grown mushrooms are more expensive than mycelium grown on grain.
At Microdose Bros, we understand the differences and the effect on your mushroom supplements, and the user. That is why we stay committed to producing the highest quality supplements. Our supplements are with only the mushroom and no residual substrate or mycelium. You’ll find a fact section on all our supplements, and this highlights the ingredients they contain. The section also includes the amount of beta-glucan per serving.