Sporulation is the process of producing spores. Fungi, certain plants and bacteria also undergo sporulation, though the process usually refers to the process of bacteria forming spores. Spores allow bacteria to survive in extreme conditions they are not suited to, including very dry, acidic or cold conditions. They also allow aerobic bacteria to grow after a period without oxygen and anaerobic bacteria to do so following exposure to oxygen.
Sporulation can be a dangerous process in that it allows diseases such as botulism and anthrax to spread; both of these anaerobic bacteria can survive and spread to humans via spores. While these harmful spores are well known, there are more benign and even helpful spores as well. Most fungi reproduce via spores, including helpful fungi such as edible mushrooms and the mold processed into penicillin.
While most plants do not reproduce via sporification, a few primitive plants do. These plants are important to understanding the evolution that led to the rise of plant life on Earth. Ferns, mosses and tumbleweeds are some of the better known plants that can reproduce via spores.
Spores have an advantage over seeds and other forms of reproduction because they are hardier; in many species, they can survive at temperature and pressure extremes and without water. Spores are used for reproduction and dispersal in plants and fungi but are often used for survival without reproduction among bacteria.