Making Mushroom Spore Prints

We love to go mushroom hunting. Our mushroom hunts are for spore prints. We do NOT eat our mushrooms. I wish I knew which ‘shrooms were edible and which were not, but alas… Goals! 

Spore prints are a favorite around here. I do not know how I made it all the way through my college biology classes without knowing that spore prints are used in mushroom identification, but there you are. To give myself credit, there aren’t any mushrooms in the ocean. (Marine biologist over here.) These are perfect for nature study, and a great excuse to get outside. We find them in natural areas around our house after a few days of rain. I thought I’d share how to make mushroom spore prints with some tips we’ve discovered along the way.

STEP 1. First you gather the mushrooms. All kinds of mushrooms  will leave prints and it’s fun  to experiment. I find that the clearest prints are left by the flatter, fully open but not over extended (still domed) caps where the stem can be cut closely and the mushroom touches the paper all the way around.

STEP 2. Cut the stems of your mushrooms. The closer to the cap the better. We want them to lay as flat as possible on the paper. Be very careful when cutting that the gills and mushroom gills and cap aren’t damaged.

STEP 3. Dab any moisture off  of the stem where it was cut with toilet paper or paper towel. We want to keep the moisture at a minimal. Not always easy, as you will see, but that’s our goal. The moisture warps the paper and our print.

Place your mushroom cap face down on a piece of paper. We usually start with BLACK card stock. Mushrooms can lay spore prints in black, which, and shades of brown. The contrast is what makes them stand out. You can identify your mushroom and choose the paper accordingly. Many books will tell you the color of the spore print. We just usually start with black as most of our ‘shrooms print white spores. You can see in my stories, that one was brown.

Place a cup, bowl, or something to cover the cap to eliminate air drafts. We want the spores to fall straight down and not be influenced by air flows. You’ll see in some of your prints this lovely drift is made because the cap is too far away from the paper.

STEP 4. Check on them in a few hours. Most of the instructions that I’ve seen say to leave overnight. In my experience this is way too long. The print is too heavy and the clarity is lost. Leave for a few hours 2 -3 and check back. If you see a rim of white on the paper, you can lift the mushroom and see. Know that like all prints, unless the mushroom is layer back in the exact position, it will spore over the original resulting in a loss of clarity. Move to a different paper and this time wait longer if it didn’t take the first time.

BONUS STEP: Look at your print under the microscope. Just place the paper right on the platform. You will definitely need a TOP light source. We have a light pen on our microscope. You can find it in my Amazon Favorites under “Biology”. You’l be able to see all the rows of little spheres (spores from the mushroom.) It’s so cool.

If you make them, I’d love to see them. Tag me on Instagram @beauty_of_play or on Facebook @beautyofplay.

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