Because so many mushroom species exist, sometime, you may need to resort to creating spore prints. This helps to properly identify the mushroom at hand. It’s not as hard as you might think. For me, it always reminds me of old science lessons back in school.
I didn’t mind science so much, maybe because I already had a deep fascination with biology. But whenever we worked with mushrooms, my interest definitely rose several levels. That is because the science behind mushrooms really fascinates me. Just think about it.
These organisms are one of the undiscovered frontiers of the planet. Scientists have no idea just how many species exist, discovering new varieties each and every day.
There are virtually tens of thousands of different species of mushrooms. Identifying many may come down to properly identifying them through their spore prints. While it sounds like a difficult process, it actually isn’t, the hardest thing about it is the time it takes.
What are Mushroom Spore Prints?
Do you know how dandelion spread their seeds in order to reproduce itself? It releases seeds into the air, sometimes by people who enjoy pulling the head off the plant and blowing the seeds into the wind.
A mushroom works in a very similar way. They release hundreds of spores that catch the wind and drift until they land, growing into a fruiting body.
These mushroom spores contain certain information that helps to identify which species they belong to. While individual spores aren’t really visible to the naked eye the way dandelion seeds are, they tend to fall in clumps and these clumps are visible.
When you make a spore print, you’ll identify the spores very easily, picking up the most definitive of identifiers; their color. Mushroom spores come in a range of colors, anything from white to black and everything in between. This might mean you’ll need to use different base material to catch the spores, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Ways to Make Spore Prints
Step #1: Decide which base to use
The first thing you’ll need to decide is which base to use. The choice of the base will come in to play, because if you choose the wrong type, your resulting spore print may not work at all.
The reason is that spore prints come in a range of colors and if the spores for your particular mushroom are black and you choose a black sheet of cardboard for your base, the spores won’t show up.
Do a little bit of homework, so you have a fair idea of the spore color. Otherwise, you may need to go through the process twice, especially if you see no spores after 24 hours. If you don’t have any spores after that time, it may be because you chose the wrong base.
A good option I like to use is aluminum foil. The reflective surface highlights most spore colors, making it a perfect choice. This will also depend on what you intend to do with your print, as some people choose to keep them. More on that shortly.
Step #2: Identify the type of host
Mushroom spores tend to come from two types of hosts. The first is a mushroom with gills. The simplest method to obtain the spores from a gilled mushroom is to remove the stem and place the remaining cap on your chosen base. This will depend on the humidity of the room but is also great at helping the mushroom.
Not all mushrooms have gills. Some have pores and these release spores through tiny holes, normally on the underside of the cap. But remember that not all mushrooms are soft and spongy.
There are also those that have quite hard caps and these may take a lot longer to release their spores. Wrapping them in a wet towel overnight is a great way to manipulate them.
Once you have your mushroom cap on the base, cover it with a cup, bowl, or any other container that will secure the cap inside and keep drafts out. You don’t want a breeze to blow the spores off the base before you have a chance to check on them.
Step #3: Check after a few hours
Check after a few hours and see if you have a spore print. If nothing is there, replace the covering and wait for up to 24 hours, depending on the variety.
Most should have ejected enough spore matter for it to be visible. If after 24 hours there’s still no evidence, change the color of your base and try again.
If you do have spores, congratulations. You now have a spore print. If you’re only using it to identify the mushroom, I hope it’s the one you wanted.
If you intend to keep the spore print, make sure to use a sealer, like an artist spray or even common hair spray. Just be sure to keep the can far enough away to not blow the spores off yourself.
Now that you’ve read about spore prints, why not check out this great article about the 5 Tips if You Are Looking Into Growing Medicinal Mushrooms.