Make your own spore print!

Make your own spore print 

What's a spore? 

A spore is like a seed for fungi. Like collecting seeds from plants, you can collect spore prints of mushrooms you've foraged to aid in your identification sleuthing. 🕵️‍♀️ Mycologists use spore size, shape and color to help identify an unknown species of mushroom. 

The spore of a mushroom holds all of the genetic material required to form a new fungus. Mushrooms are actively ejecting spores all of time (even if you're just chillin' reading this on your couch, you have spores on you right now. If you just tried to rub them off, they're still there. Don't even think about it, just keep chillin. Cool. ) On their own, spores are teeny-tiny and can only be seen with a microscope. 🔬

Gif via DISPERAL GIF on giphy

When the spores of a mushroom are released, they can travel a considerable distance before they land. Upon landing, this single cell (spore) sends out 'hyphae' or fibers that as a collective we refer to as 'mycelium.' Mycelium's job is to help gather food and materialize the fungus.  

On a mature mushroom, thousands and thousands of spores grow on just one gill of the mushroom (and non-gilled mushrooms have their own distinct method of releasing spores). Spore color can range from white to black and many shades in between.

How to make a print 

Here are some things to note before you go about making a print:

  • When collecting mushrooms for prints out in the field, you can take along some sheets of aluminum foil in your collecting basket, place the mushroom cap on the foil, and enclose it, together with the rest of the mushroom, in the foil.
  • You want to maintain cleanliness and sterility as much as possible.  Do everything you can to minimize contamination from other fungi spores or bacteria!
  • If you have the option, use the freshest caps or cleanest specimens. The older the cap, the fewer the spores and a higher likelihood contamination from other of bacteria /fungi or insects being present.
  • Try to maintain humidity to achieve a thick, dark spore print. Mushrooms are 90 perfect water, containing ample moisture best preserved placing a cup or bowl over the cap during the printing process. The bowl also aids in protecting the area around the cap from dust and other airborne spores. After printing, the spore print needs to dry (any condensation left will promote bacteria).

Photo by Caine Barlow

  • You can print on many mediums, including aluminum foil, a white piece of paper, an index card or a glass microscope slide. Aluminum foil is a popular choice because it is lightweight, durable, and considerably sterile. Paper can be problematic for storing long term due to spores binding with the fibers or the potentiality of mites wanting to munch on your spores.  
  • If you already know the color of the spores of your mushroom, you can pick a colored paper that will highlight the spore color.

 

  • If you’re feeling *artsy*, you can “float” down the mushroom onto the paper in different patterns from the air current in the room. Place the cap of the mushroom on card stock or colored paper without covering the cap, and just see what happens. It can make for a neat card for your nerdy mycophilie friends or some artistic inspo for your next creation.
  • Ink caps specifically (Coprinus comatus or other Coprinus species) will drop a surprising amount of black spores: leaving them overnight could provide you with enough to make ink. Just scrape them into several drops of water and then doodle on!

Gilled Mushrooms

Mushrooms with gills’ spores lie on the gill surface.

Mushroom drawings source

First, cut off the stem and place the cap, with the gills facing down, on a piece of aluminum foil, a white piece of paper, an index card or a glass microscope slide.

Put a drop of water on the top of the cap to help release the spores.

Cover the cap with a paper cup, glass, or bowl and leave for 2-24 hours, depending on the humidity and the freshness of the mushroom. The spores will fall on the paper, foil or glass, making a spore print pattern.

 

 

Mushrooms with pores

If the mushroom has a stem and is soft and fresh, such as a bolete (see pictured above ) the spores will be inside the pores underneath the cap.

Mushroom drawings source

If the mushroom is hard, it is more difficult to obtain spore prints from polypores growing on trees or logs. Some polypores take a long time to mature and produce spores. Also, the mushrooms can often live a long time after they produce and disperse their spores. Try wrapping them in wet paper towels or newspapers overnight before putting them down on foil, paper or glass to make a spore print. Note that the spore bearing surface always faces down toward the ground as the polypore grows.

A spore print can be made in the same way as for a gilled mushroom (reiterated below). Your spore deposit will reflect the size and shape of the pores.

 

First, cut off the stem and place the cap, with the gills facing down, on a piece of aluminum foil, a white piece of paper, an index card or a glass microscope slide.

Put a drop of water on the top of the cap to help release the spores.

Cover the cap with a paper cup, glass, or bowl and leave for 2-24 hours, depending on the humidity and the freshness of the mushroom. The spores will fall on the paper, foil or glass, making a spore print pattern.

 

Other mushrooms

Mushroom drawings source

If you stumble upon other types of mushrooms such as morels, hydnums, corals, puffballs or birds nests, just do a quick search-a-roo and look up how to locate the spores! 

 

Preserve your spore print: 

Spore prints can be preserved on paper or foil by spraying them lightly with an artist spray or hairy spray. Hold the spray at least 12 to 15 inches above the print or you may blast the spores right off the paper!

 

Art via @Shroomlandia_sporeprints on instagram

Whether you decide to up your mushroom ID game to the next level, make some fun art prints, or personalize a mush greeting card, spore prints are a neat way to familiarize yourself better with your foray findings!

 

Written by Mālama Mushrooms Hawaii Admin

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