Journey through the mushroom life cycle

Let’s take a journey through the mushroom’s life cycle, shall we?

The life cycle can take anywhere from four weeks to multiple months for a mushroom to go from a microscopic spore to a full fruitbody, depending on the type.

We begin with the spore. It is the mushroom version of a seed, but spores are much smaller. The spore is a microscopic cell with all the information and tools needed to grow a fungus.

When a mushroom fully matures, it often releases spores into the air. The spores ride the wind before landing wherever Mother Nature takes them.

Imagine 50 parachuters who simultaneously jump out of a plane overtop Ottawa and don’t steer. Most of them get caught in trees in the nearby forests. Carl and Samantha land in the Rideau River. Fred caught a draft and ended up somewhere in Peterborough.

The point is, mushrooms must release millions of spores because only a few will actually land somewhere where they can germinate.

Those spores set up shop by releasing hyphae. Those are long, thread-like structures that search for food. Mushrooms are not like plants who make their food from light using photosynthesis. Instead, hyphae will connect to form a group, called mycelium.

Mycelium is the network in the soil or growing substrate. It breaks down and absorbs nutrients for the fungal body. Mycelium is usually white with a fuzzy, cotton candy texture. It will grow enough to cover the growing area inside and out before developing the fruiting body for mushrooms.

This stage in the mushroom life cycle starts with pinning. The mycelium reaches the surface of the substrate – it feels a drop in temperature and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. Although mushrooms do not need light to grow, a bit helps the mycelium know it can now set up shop.

Pins – also known as primordia or baby mushrooms – start forming on top of the mycelium. Once pinning happens, get ready for the fungi version of the tortoise and the hare.

Oyster and Lion’s Mane mushrooms can go from this stage to a full fruitbody in three to five days.  

Other mushrooms like to take their time. Shiitake mushrooms take about one to two months before the pinning stage, where it takes around two weeks to fruit. Reishi mushrooms take two to four weeks to pin and another two months to fruit.

The mushrooms grow enough to release spores and cover more ground. This helps more than just the mushrooms – these decomposers are essential in rejuvenating soil in the ecosystem.

For mushrooms grown indoors, mushrooms are harvested right before the spores are released. This is the best time for fresh and tender mushrooms to go from the block to the kitchen for a delicious meal.

As the journey through the mushroom’s life cycle ends, our gift shop has exactly what you need for fresh mushrooms. We have a grow room full of more than nine types of mushrooms, all with different characteristics, available to buy.

We can also save you the fun part of growing mushrooms with grow kits. We add the spores to a grow mix and allow the mycelium to grow towards the surface. After that, the grow kit is yours to watch the mushrooms fruit.

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