The Mushroom Life Cycle

Author: Elvis Maldonado 

Mushrooms have a unique life cycle that all depends on the size of the mushroom as well as the environment in which the mushroom lives. Small mushrooms can grow in about 1 day while medium to larger sized mushrooms can grow in about 3-4 days. In order for the mushroom to grow steadily, the environment needs to provide steady moisture so that the mushroom life cycle can run its course.

The mushroom life cycle is mesmerizing! It’s exciting to visually see the mushroom grow to its full potential, yet, it’s equally as exciting to understand the process of the mushroom life cycle that remains hidden by mother nature.

Alright mushroom enthusiasts, let’s breakdown the mushroom life cycle step by step so we can all become mushroom experts!


What is a Mushroom?

Mushrooms are a type of fungus, not plants. To get more specific, mushrooms are like the ‘fruit’ of fungi. Similar to how a tree produces fruits, the fungi produce mushrooms. One difference is that mushrooms don’t only grow in the ground, mushrooms can also grow on trees and in controlled environments.  


Dropping Spores

Mushrooms produce and release spores from the gills that are located underneath the mushroom cap. Spores are produced as either male or female. Each mushroom is capable of producing hundreds of thousands of spores that can travel beyond the limits of the parent mushroom; as we all know mushrooms are rooted, so they can’t travel anywhere at all.


Growing into Hyphae

Think of each spore as a single cell. Each of those cells is either male or female that ultimately group up with other spores to create male and female hyphae.

Hyphae are groups of the same spore. When the hyphae of one spore meet the hyphae of another spore, they meet and combine to being the process of producing mycelium.



This is part of the mushroom life cycle that we actually get to see take form. It’s not difficult to understand what mycelium is and does. Just think of mycelium as the roots of a plant.

For the mushroom, mycelium is the web-like root system that remains rooted to the ground, yet, is capable of branching out. This web-like system provides a stable and nutritious area for the fungi to start producing mushrooms.



From Hyphal Knots to Pinheads (Baby Mushrooms)

The hyphal knot is the first point at which the pinhead and body of the mushroom begin to sprout but not yet take form. The transition from hyphal knots to the baby mushrooms, also called pinheads, is a process visible to the naked eye.



From Pinning to The Mushroom!

The pinheads (baby mushrooms) are easy to spot when you know what they look like. Not all the pins from the mycelium colony will grow, most of them will stop growing. This makes it easier to "pin" point the healthy pins that will eventually sprout into
full-grown mushrooms, where a new mushroom life cycle will begin.