Mushrooms and Edible Fungi

Can mushrooms grow up overnight?

A mushroom is only the fruiting body—that is, reproductive structure—of a much-larger fungus body that grows unseen in rotting logs, rich humus, and dark, damp places. Many familiar mushrooms have fruiting bodies that are fleshy and umbrella shaped. Warm, damp weather triggers their sudden appearance. Usually first to be noticed are small, round “button caps” composed of densely packed hyphae. Soon after the outer covering ruptures, the stem elongates, and the cap enlarges to its full size. This entire process can indeed happen overnight!

One such fast-growing fungus is the stinkhorn type called Dictyophora indusiata—considered one of the world’s fastest-growing organisms. It pushes out of the ground at a rate of about 0.2 inches (0.5 centimeters) per minute. The growth rate is so fast that a crackling sound can be heard as the tissues of the fungus swell and stretch. During growth, a delicate, netlike veil forms around the fungus, giving this fungus its common name, “the lady of the veil.” The fungus then decomposes and in the process produces a strong odor that is similar to the smell of decaying flesh. This odor attracts flies that crawl over the fungus and collect its spores on their feet. This process ensures that the spores are carried to new areas. Although the odor produced by species of Dictyophora is quite unpleasant, members of this genus are considered delicacies in China, where they are marketed as aphrodisiacs.


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