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How to Make a Spore Print

Making mushroom spore prints is a whole lot of fun! They're super easy--and oh so unique! This blog post provides a quick overview on how to make your very own spore print. A terrific craft for curious kids and adults alike!


What you'll need:

  1. Paper of any color

  2. A flat surface

  3. One or more mushroom caps, with the stems trimmed as short as possible (you'll want a fresh cap that has the gill/pore surface fully exposed)

  4. A bowl or cup larger than the mushroom caps

  5. Clear acrylic spray paint or laminating machine (optional for spore print preservation)


Instructions:

  1. Search for some mushrooms! Typically you'll be searching for fungi with fresh caps that have the gill/pore surface fully exposed. (Note that not all mushrooms you come across will be in a spore bearing stage; this means that no matter how much patience you have, some caps will not create spore prints.)

  2. Carefully pick the mushrooms and trim the stems, cutting them as close to the cap as possible without scarring the gill/pore surface. (Unless you're picking on your own private property, be sure to check for any regional foraging rules first!)

  3. Grab your paper of choice and place it somewhere that can easily go undisturbed for several hours.

  4. Arrange your mushroom caps face down on top of the paper in a way that speaks to you. Be creative! This is where your artistic eye comes into play. What kind of design would you like to make?

  5. Cover the mushroom caps and paper completely with a bowl or cup. Your goal is to keep any air from passing through. Air can disturb the spores in the same way that wind can, which will impede the printing process!

  6. Wait 3-6 hours, then remove the bowl and mushrooms from the paper. The amount of time you should leave your mushroom alone depends on the species and age, so precision in this case comes with practice.

  7. Stand back and "ooh and ahh" at your work!

  8. To preserve the spore print, you can either spray paint the page with a clear acrylic sealer (we've used "Krylon Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating") or carefully laminate it with a laminating machine (we recommend the Scotch TL901X Thermal Laminator with 5 mil laminating pockets).


I tested the above steps with four different types of mushrooms I found in my yard:

  1. yellow stainer

  2. fly agaric

  3. blewit

  4. an adorable plump white fungus that I was unable to identify

This gave me the opportunity to uncover potential problems that folks may run into when replicating these instructions. Here is what I came up with...


Problems to be aware of:

  1. Neither the adorable plump white fungus nor the blewit put out any spores! I let several caps of different sizes rest on both black and white scraps of paper for over 24 hours and nothing happened with any of them--so don't be surprised or disappointed if your mushroom doesn't perform as expected. Just try a different fungus!

  2. Don't leave your mushroom TOO long--it could drop so many spores that the lined gill print effect is no longer visible. This happened to me the first time around when I left my yellow stainers for 10 hours. I left the fly agaric for only 3.5 hours, which proved to be a good length of time.

  3. Try to store the mushrooms somewhere cool while the print is in progress. I think my yellow stainer caps opened slightly while under the bowl due to heat, which also affected the lined gill print effect.


"Yellow Stainer"

(Agaricus xanthodermus)


"Fly Agaric"

(Amanita muscaria)


Fun, right??


Remember--different mushrooms have different spore colors and patterns. Once you get the hang of this process, you might like to try making variations on your first project! Maybe you'd like to place multiple different species on a single page! Or perhaps experiment with paper color, or texture? So many options--and the choices are all yours!


Note: despite what popular culture may like to depict, spores are generally harmless! Poisonous mushrooms are only toxic if consumed. While it is true that heavy, long-term exposure to mushroom spores can lead to lung inflammation, spore printing is a common and safe endeavor (remember, you are essentially trapping the mushroom spores under your bowl/cup!). Enjoy!

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