Mushroom spores are tiny, lightweight cells that are produced by mature mushrooms. They are spread through the air and can be carried by animals, insects, or water. When a spore lands on a suitable location, it germinates and begins to grow.
It all starts with a tiny, elongated type of branch that spores develop, which resembles something like a long, thin filament-like structure. This is known as a “hypha.” This white, thread-like structure grows and branches out, forming a mass of interconnected hyphae called a mycelium, which should already be a well-known term for those who have tried to grow mushrooms in the past. The mycelium grows and spreads through the soil or other substrate, absorbing nutrients and water as it goes along, and later becoming the root-like foundation structure on which the actual mushrooms will grow.
Mushrooms end up growing similarly as flowers might grow from a plant. As the mycelium grows and matures, it begins to produce fruiting bodies, which gradually grow into the visible mushrooms that we see and love. These bodies contain new spores, which bring the growth process full circle, as they are ready to be released when the mushroom matures and begins to decay. The spores will then be carried away by the wind or other means, starting the cycle all over again.
Many types of mushrooms have a quick growth cycle, being grown literally overnight, following rainfall or a storm. Here, there can be great variety depending on the species of the spore and its particular characteristics. Some spores are ephemeral and can easily be damaged by the elements. Others can become dormant and then continue their growth cycle even some years later. To watch this process, try cultivating your own and buy mushroom spores from reputable sources like Shaman Mushroom Spores.