Obtaining a spore print is one of the most essential steps you can take in the process of identifying a particular mushroom. Every reputable identification source, whether it's a field guide or a mycological website will without a doubt always refer to spore colour in its list of characteristics. Most times the colour mentioned will be some variation of the common primary or secondary we are familiar with. Brown, for instance may remain brown or more than likely become ochre, while tan become buff and white may be cream and so on. You will quickly learn what different colours are used depending on your point of reference.
To obtain a spore print with a gilled mushroom, make sure the specimen is mature, but not too old. Older specimens will have already dropped their spores, while young mushrooms may still have a veil covering the gills or the pore surface of a bolete may be covered as well. Wet specimens will be harder to print as the moisture prevents spores from ejecting.
Once you have the mushroom you want to print, cut off the stem and place the cap gill or pore surface down on a white piece of paper. Some recommend covering the cap with a bowl or something to keep the spores from blowing away, but I've never had that problem, yet. You may if you choose to. Some also choose to use a different colour of paper other than white due to some spores being white, but you should be able to see a white spore print on white paper, and I think that using white paper, due to the neutral field, will give me a more accurate print. Anyhow, you have your mushroom cap laying face down on your white paper. Leave it there for several hours giving the spores sufficient time to settle. This may happen quickly, or it may take a day. Usually it happens within a few hours if it's going to happen at all. Once you have given the specimen time to print, raise the cap off of the paper and you should see the released spores and their corresponding colour. You can now use this key factor to identify your mushroom to genus at least. As with all mushroom identification techniques, work meticulously and with caution especially if you think you have something edible. It's always best when learning a new mushroom to rely on several sources. My favourite is to ask someone that knows. Soon, you will know some mushroom's when you see them and others that may have poisonous look alike's, you'll be able to differentiate between the good and bad by spore print colour. Bare in mind other factors are also crucial in making a positive identification. And if you ever have any doubt, then by all means, don't eat it!
copyright 2003-2005 Rex Bartlett-Michigan Morels HOME