The life cycle of mushrooms begins with the spores, which are tiny reproductive cells that are produced by the mature mushroom. These spores are released into the environment and can be carried by the wind, water, or other means to new locations.
When a spore lands on a suitable substrate, such as dead wood or soil, it will germinate and begin to grow into a thread-like structure called a mycelium. The mycelium will continue to grow and spread, feeding on the nutrients in the substrate.
As the mycelium grows, it may encounter another mycelium of the same species. If the two mycelia are compatible, they will fuse together in a process called plasmogamy. This fusion results in a new structure called a dikaryon, which contains two separate nuclei, one from each parent mycelium.
Under the right conditions, the dikaryon will begin to form a fruiting body, which is what most people think of as a mushroom. The fruiting body is the reproductive structure of the mushroom, and it is where the spores are produced. The fruiting body can take many different shapes and sizes, depending on the species of mushroom.
When the spores are mature, they are released from the fruiting body and the life cycle begins again. The spores may be carried by the wind or other means to new locations, where they can germinate and start the process of forming a new mycelium.
It’s worth noting that not all mushrooms go through this entire life cycle. Some mushrooms, such as the chanterelle, do not produce a typical fruiting body and instead release their spores directly from the mycelium. Others, such as the morel, have a more complex life cycle that involves a long period of dormancy.