Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Make a Mushroom Spore Print

Carolyn Nixon

 

Mushrooms are the reproductive bodies of a fungus.  Their purpose is to produce spores, which are like the “seeds” for a fungus.  Different species of fungi have different types and colors of spores, and mushrooms release the spores in different patterns, depending on the shape and pattern of the underside of the mushroom cap.  Some caps are smooth on the bottom with many tiny pores.  These release the spores evenly across the surface.  Others have gill-like structures that tend to release spores in a raylike pattern.

 

Mycologists (scientists who study fungi) use spores as one of the characteristics in identifying a fungus.  The color of the spores, their shape and surface texture, and the pattern of how they are released are all important.  While the size and shape of the individual spores are only visible with a high-powered microscope, the color and pattern of release are easy to determine by making spore prints.

To make spore prints from mushrooms, you will need:

 

   • heavy weight paper in both white and black

   • fresh, mature mushrooms that are not deteriorating

   • damp cotton balls or pieces of paper towel

   • bowls or glasses large enough to fit over a mushroom

 

If you want to save your spore prints, you will also need:

 

clear acrylic spray, laminating film and laminator, or clear contact paper

 

To produce a spore print from a mushroom:

 

1.   Cut or pull the stem from the mushroom cap.

2.   Place the mushroom cap, top side up, on a piece of white or black paper.  If you have more than one of the same type of mushroom, place at least one on each color of paper.  Note: be sure to write the date and location where the mushroom was collected on the piece of paper.

3.  Place a damp cotton ball or piece of damp paper towel on top of the mushroom.  This will help keep it fresh longer.

4.  Place an upside-down glass or bowl over the top of the mushroom to help keep the mushroom moist.

5.  If possible, check the paper in a couple of hours to see if spores are deposited on the paper.  It may take from 2 to 24 hours to collect the spores.

6.  Remove the glass or bowl and the cotton ball or paper towel.  Carefully lift the mushroom cap up from the paper.  You should now have a spore print!

 

To preserve you spore print once the paper is dry, spray it with clear acrylic, laminate it, or cover it with clear contact paper.

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Notes to the teacher: If the room is very warm, the mushroom may deteriorate quickly and be difficult to remove from the paper.  In this case, if it is possible, place the paper with the mushrooms on it in a refrigerator.  This will slow down the deterioration.  It may also slow the release of the spores.

 

To write a date and location on the black paper, use a white- or yellow-colored pencil.

 

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