The mushroom life cycle remains largely invisible to most mushroom hunters; not so to cultivators. The mushroom cultivator follows the path of the mushroom life cycle. Fruitbodies form only at the completion of the mushroom lifecycle and for most species, occur but for a few days, then disappear.
- inoculation: Spores alight upon a growth medium (or substrate). If conditions are favorable, spores will germinate.
- spore germination: Fine fungal filaments known as hyphae grow from the spores. Compatible hyphae mate to create fertile mycelium.
- mycelial expansion: Developing mycelium breaks down organic matter and absorbs nutrients from its surroundings. During this stage of growth, mycelium expands at an exponential rate. In its environment, mycelium encounters many competitors and predators which it repels with an amazing array of protective enzymes and compounds. In this sense, the mycelium is the immune system of the mushroom.
- hyphal knot: Mycelium condenses into hyphal knots, which then develop into “primordia” or baby mushrooms.
- primordia formation: The mushroom organism produces an amazing array of enzymes and optimizes the constituents of both the mycelium and the developing fruitbody. Host Defense harvests during this peak stage of growth to capture an abundant constituent profile including polysaccharides (beta glucans, arabinoxylanes), glycoproteins, ergosterols, triterpenoids and other myco-nutrients.
- fruitbody selection: From thousands of primordia, the growing organism selects the most promising few to develop into mature fruitbodies.
- mature fruitbody: The organism channels all of its energy and nutrients to develop the fruitbody, which will then produce spores. Spore generation is the sexual reproduction phase of the mushroom life cycle.
- spore release: The fruitbody releases spores into the environment for propagation. Those that land on a favorable substrate (or growth medium) can germinate, beginning the life cycle anew!