Spores are basically the seeds of the mushrooms. Spore prints can be used to aid in the identification of certain species of mushroom. By adding moisture to them and letting the spores grow, you can create new patches of the variety of mushrooms they came from. On top of all that, they happen to look really nice and every once in a while you end up getting one that looks like a masterpiece. Odin and I found some mushrooms in our garden while we were out harvesting asparagus the other day so we collected a few of them to try our hand at some spore prints. Zak studied mycology with a mycologist here on island and was able to learn so much about propagating mushrooms in a lab setting and in the garden. He also learned about foraging and the variety of conditions local species need to grow. We’ve been teaching Odin over the years all that we know so far and now we are learning together.
Here’s how we made our spore prints:
You need- mushrooms (harvest responsibly, leave the roots, only take what you need, and leave behind at least half), a glass bowl or cup with a mouth slightly bigger than the mushroom cap, and thick paper.
Start my removing the stem of the mushroom. You want to try your best not to touch the gills so carefully break it off with your hands or use an exacto knife to be more precise. We just used our hands to carefully break it away. Then you lay the mushroom cap, gills down, on the paper.
Cover the mushroom cap with a glass. Spores are designed to travel far and this will keep them in place as gravity pulls them down onto the paper and protect the spores from any air current. Some mushrooms will drop their spores quickly, over the course of a few hours. We left these overnight to make a really dramatic print.
In the morning we lifted up the glasses, then carefully lifted up the mushroom caps. We put them aside to throw back into the garden. We were left with some pretty beautiful prints.
This is a great activity to do with young children, and a very important topic to discuss. Some mushrooms are very dangerous and it’s important to start that dialogue young so that they grow up aware. Odin knows that he needs to be wary, but he also needs to know that his curiosity is more than welcome when it comes to studying fungus. It’s important not to be afraid of the earth around us but to try our best to understand all of its complexities.