Fungal Growth and Reproduction

As the “humongous fungus” shows, fungi can grow to enormous mass if unimpeded.

Hyphae grow by adding cells at the tip. Hyphae are very tiny, measuring only a few microns in diameter in some cases. But they can also be incredibly strong, punching through not only the soft membranes of animal cells, but also the tough, woody walls of plant cells and the hard chitin that makes up insect bodies.

Fungi usually reproduce without sex. Single-celled yeasts reproduce asexually by budding. A single yeast cell can produce up to 24 offspring.

Fungi that make hyphae can reproduce asexually as well. Bits of the hyphae can break off and continue to grow as separate entities, or can form stalks containing seed-like spores.

Although less common, fungi can produce spores sexually. Two mating cells from hyphae of different strains of fungi can mate by fusing together and forming a spore stalk.


When the spore caps at the end of spore stalks fully mature, they burst. The spores may simply drop in the same area, or be carried by the wind or rain to new spots.

Where they land, spores will germinate like seeds. But if they don’t land on a suitable food source or in ideal conditions, the spores can survive in a dormant state for extended periods, waiting for more favorable conditions or to be carried to a better spot.


When you hear the word fungus, you probably think of mushrooms. Did you know bread mold is a kind of fungus, too? And that the itchy burning of athlete's foot is, yes, caused by another fungus? And that when you take penicillin, you're taking a medicine made by a fungus?

Fungi come in a variety of shapes and sizes and different types. They can range from individual cells to enormous chains of cells that can stretch for miles.


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