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Life cycle

Truffles must live in symbiosis with certain trees and shrubs in order to produce the precious sporocarps. The two organisms, the truffle and the tree, mutually exchange substances through the roots and by means of mycorrhizae, which are different in the different species.

Mycorrhizae are the product of the association between the tubular septate filaments called hyphae and the root tips of a tree. Mycorrhizae spread within the initial levels of the radical cells and form a net. Thanks to this association, the tree gives nutrients to the fungi, and in turn receives mostly water and minerals. From the net, the hyphae will branch and will continue branching through the soil in search of nutrients.

A mass of branching hyphae is called mycelium. When all the necessary environmental conditions occur, a number of hyphae will intertwine and form the fruiting body, in whose gleba are the spores. The spores will germinate into a new mycelium which, together with the young root tips, will form new mycorrhizae. Unlike the epigeous fungi which form fruiting bodies above ground, the hypogeous fungi cannot disperse the spores via wind. Evolution has therefore equipped them with a strong smell, perceptible only when they reach maturation. This smell attracts insects and mammals that feed on truffles and as a result provide for the dispersion of the spores.

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