The main characteristics of the phylum Basidiomycota include the formation of basidia on a fruiting body and the development of basidiospores, according to the Tree of Life Web Project. The basidiospores germinate to form septate hyphae or yeast cells.
Found in a variety of terrestrial and water-based environments, Basidiomycota help decompose organic matter and contribute to the carbon cycle, according to the Tree of Life Web Project. The sexual spore stage separates Basidiomycota from other fungi, and they employ highly specialized parts to accomplish their reproduction. Basidiomycota produce basidiospores located on top of basidia. The basidiospores can separate from the basidia and can be spread by forced ejection, according to the New Brunswick Museum. The spores do not travel far, but they depend on the wind to carry them further. When the basidiospores are ejected, they are called ballistospores.
Not all basidiospores are ejected and instead only spread when the basidia break down as in the case of puffball mushrooms. These nonejected spores tend to look circular, and the basidiospores appear to be inseparable from their basidia. Basidiomycota typically form symbiotic relationships with other organisms, including termites, woodwasps and bark beetles, according to the Tree of Life Web Project. Many types of Basidiomycota are edible, but some, like the Amanita phalloides, can produce deadly toxins.