How To Make a Mushroom Spore Print (with pictures)
Do you know what a mushroom spore print is? Well, it's many things! An identification aid; a work of art and also a fun thing to do with kids! They are super easy to make and this is something you can easily do with almost any mushroom.
Within the gills of mushrooms sit billions upon billions of spores, which are sort of like plant seeds. The mushroom drops them, they get blown in the wind and find somewhere nice to grow, making even more mushrooms!
This is a blog on how to make a spore print. This means, letting the spores fall down in such a way that we can capture and see them. We can look at the pattern they make and preserve it too! Below is how to do that with pictures. Or click here to skip the words and go straight to my quick video at the bottom of the page!
Step 1: Find a good mushroom specimen
Take a look around you the next time you are on a walk for a mushroom that looks dry, solid and has quite a large cap.
The cap is the top bit of the mushroom that looks like a plate. This is where the gills are - those long strips of mushroom that look like folded paper. The stem is the long bit that goes into the ground like a tree trunk.
Although you can do mushroom spore prints with caps of any size - and it is good to experiment - starting with a big one will give you a bigger end result.
A bigger cap also means there is less danger of it being accidentally moved halfway through!
The reason you want a dry, solid mushroom is because you are about to lay the cap onto paper or card. Any moisture in the mushroom will soak into the card making it all soft and icky.
Step 2: Remove the stem
The stem of a mushroom is an important diagnostic feature. It can help you narrow down what type of mushroom it is, and it's important to take as much of it as possible when you are looking for an identification. However, for the purposes of creating a spore print, it gets in the way and has to be removed. This can be down with any sharp knife, although I enjoy using my Opinel foraging knife as the curved blade is nice and sharp and the brush sweeps away any lingering dirt.
Try to slice the stem off as close to the cap as possible. This will mean the cap can sit flat and snug against on paper for the next step.
Step 3: Place the mushroom cap on paper
The next step requires nothing more than placing the mushroom gills down onto some black paper. The paper I use is this House of Card 160GSM card. You can use anything you have though, even a black glass table! Black tends to show up the colour of the spores best. If after you have gone through the steps and found out that your mushroom spores are black, then try again with white card. to show them up better. Always make sure the paper or whatever you are using is flat and smooth.
And then just...wait! 24 hours is ideal, but you can check it after 12 if you are in a rush. The nature of these spore prints means that once you move it, you can't put it back because the smallest change in the cap's position will ruin the spore print. So it is best to do this somewhere calm, away from any busy activities and where everything will remain clean and dry. Somewhere like an attic, top of a cupboard or even a drawer (so long as you won't need a pair of socks from it!).
Step 4: Wait!
Step 5: Reveal
After a day has passed, it's time to see what you have got. Gently lift the mushroom cap up without knocking it and take a look at the beautiful pattern it has left behind!
Depending on how many spores were dropped and their colour, the pattern is different each time. But you will always be able to see clearly the lines of the gills, and of course the big circle in the middle where the stem used to be.
You can see in this image I did a spore print with a big shroom and a little 'un and they both work!
Discard the mushroom now. There are still probably plenty of spores left in it though, so try to put it outside where the wind will catch them and more mushrooms can sprout up in the future! The mushroom will gently rot away.
Step 6: Preserving your spore print
Currently, your spore print will start to disappear over time, as the spores drop off or blow away. This will leave you with nothing but a dirty smudge! That's why you need to use good quality fixative spray like this one. Then let it dry and you can hang your spore print on the wall! Alternatively, make some original wrapping paper with your designs, or some amazing birthday cards or...well, anything you like with your imagination!
Spore prints offer a glimpse into the magical world of mushrooms and are sure to be a talking point whenever one is near. It;s a great outdoors and indoors activity for kids.
How to make a mushroom spore print - video
Here's a video I made on my TikTok channel that goes through the steps of creating a mushroom spore print. It really is simple and if you wanted to practice, you could even use shop bought mushrooms to see the best way of doing it! Remember TikTokkers - like and follow to see more of my videos, or follow me on Instagram for pretty foraging pics!