One of the basic skills you will need if you want to cultivate mushrooms from scratch is taking spore prints. A spore print is an amazing way not only get spores for making spore syringes, it is also a great way to store spores for later use. Some spore prints, if taken properly, can last for months or even years. If you learn to take spore prints properly you can start keeping you very own catalog for future use.

A Quick Note About Mushroom Spores

Many people think that you have to do something special to get mushrooms to release their spores or perhaps you have to manually harvest them. This is simply not the case. The moment the mushroom matures and gills are exposed it is already releasing spores. The reason we don’t often notice is because spores are microscopic and we can only see them in large numbers. The technique below will show you how easy taking spore prints really is.

Materials Needed for Taking a Spore Print

  • Freshly harvested mushroom
  • Aluminum foil or glass slides
  • Gloves
  • A sharp knife or scalpel
  • An alcohol swap
  • A glovebox or still air environment

Instructions for Taking a Spore Print

  1. Prepare your work space: In your glovebox or still air environment, ensure the area is clean and free of contamination.
  2. Setup the spore print surface: Wearing gloves, swap the surface of your aluminum foil or glass slides. Let the alcohol evaporate and stand for 10 minutes. If you are not in a glove box place a clean bowl over the surface to prevent air contamination.
  3. Prepare your mushroom: Wearing clean gloves, cut the stem off of the mushroom close to the cap without touching the gills. Be careful and handle the mushroom gently.
  4. Take the spore print: place the mushroom gills down on the spore print surface. If not in a glove box cover with a clean bowl to prevent air contamination. Allow the cap to site for 12-24 hours undisturbed.
  5. Preserve your spore print: Gently remove the cap from the spore print surface. You should be able to faintly see spores on the surface. Carefully life the spore print and store it in a plastic zip lock bag. Be sure to label your spore print and date them.

Saving Spore Prints

If kept properly a spore print can last for years. You should keep them out of direct sunlight and keep them dry. Spores will go into a dormant state if you store them in unfavorable growth conditions, so keeping them dry and away from growth medium will help them hibernate. This is known as being exogenously dormant as external conditions are not right for growth.

When storing your spore prints it is important to remember that they are still a living organism and should be handled with care. They can survive freezing so long as they are dry, but it may lower their viability. Similarly, you should not let them get too hot either. It is often best to store them in a dry container away from direct sunlight at or slightly below room temperature.

Using Spore Prints

Spore prints can be used in several ways. The main two things to do with them are to make spore syringes or to grow mycelium on agar. You can also try growing them directly on a growth medium, but it recommended that you don’t as a spore syringe or agar sample will have a much higher chance of surviving.

When you’re ready to use your spores simply take a scalpel and scrape some off into your liquid or onto your agar. If you are putting your spore print into liquid give the spores 12-24 hours to hydrate before using them as they are likely dormant if you’ve had the print for a week or longer.

Wrapping up: Spore Prints Are Easy

Spore prints are an easy yet essential skill in mushroom cultivation. If you’re planning on growing your won mushrooms at home, taking spore prints will allow you to stop relying on others for your spores and enable you to make your own grain spawn. This can be a freeing experience and also quite the cost saver! Try making some spore prints the next chance you get, they’ll kept for years and you’ll be glad you have them.