I did not know anything about mushroom spores when I fell in love with mushrooms and fungi. First I appreciate their colors and texture. As time passes I learned more about the mushroom life cycle and mushroom spores. Then I want to learn about how to extract spores from mushrooms. So I did some research and come up with an excellent method to extract mushroom spores. In this article, I am going to share this with you.

The famous method to extract spores from mushrooms is spore print. The spore print from just one mushroom has millions of spores. At maturity they fall to the ground, get airborne or spread through water runoff to new locations to facilitate the mycelium to grow in new niches and produce mushrooms.

How To Extract Spores From Mushrooms

How to extract spores from mushrooms?

Mushrooms belong to the kingdom of fungi which grow by spreading spores that develop into new fungal growth from which new mushrooms will eventually grow. The reproductive body of the fungi is the fruiting body, which is commonly called the mushroom. The purpose of a mushroom is to produce the spores or seeds of the fungus. Each variety of fungus has its own spore type and spore print. These are often used to identify fungi as well.

When starting to grow your own mushrooms, you need spores to start the new fungal cultures. Spores are available to buy commercially, But if you already have healthy mushroom cultivation at hand, producing your own mushroom spores is just a few steps away. The most common and easiest method to harvest spores from a fungus is to obtain a spore print. Making your own spore prints has many benefits. For one, you get to keep the spores of your favorite mushroom varieties at hand and do not need to spend money every time you need to start new cultures.

You can share varieties of mushrooms with other mushroom enthusiasts and the process is fairly simple. Another advantage is that you do not need to have specific instruments or equipment if you do this on a small scale for your own use. Due to this reason, you can make spore prints on the go, even if you are traveling. Although, to be used in our species-specific cultures we need uncontaminated spores from the mushrooms. To ensure this we need to make sure the spore prints are taken in clean or if possible sterile conditions.

What is a spore print?

A spore print is a powdery deposit left behind by a cap of a mushroom. In many varieties of mushrooms, spores are produced under the cap in the gills. At maturity, they can be fallen onto a surface underneath. Spore prints are very useful in mycology. They have been traditionally used to identify the species of mushrooms. The pattern, color, shape, and texture of a spore print can be unique to each variety of mushroom. This facilitates identification without the use of a high-powered microscope, therefore comes in handy if you are hunting for mushrooms in the wild.

The main purposes of obtaining a spore print are to produce spores for new cultures and preservation, mushroom identification, and sometimes for artistic purposes. Spore prints are a great way to obtain your own mushroom spores/seeds to start new cultures without having to purchase the spores every time you need them.

The technique to obtain spore prints is very simple therefore can be done on the go. It allows you to preserve the genetics of the mushroom varieties you are interested in and facilitates transporting or sharing the varieties between cultivators. One spore print contains millions of spores and can be enough for at least 100 active inoculations. Mushroom spore prints are also a popular art form. The unique patterns, colors, and shapes of different mushrooms are arranged artistically on a piece of paper to create these.

You can fix the prints onto the paper using a fixative or hairspray if the prints are kept for artistic purposes or science. This fascinating genre of art is popular among mushroom enthusiasts but still has a lot of scope for development.

How To Extract Spores From Mushrooms

How do you collect spore prints?

Making a spore print is a very simple process, but if you want uncontaminated spores, you have to be very cautious regarding hygiene. If possible you should maintain sterile conditions throughout the process.

Hygiene steps

Following are a few of the hygiene tips you may need to follow before obtaining a spore print. You need to clean all surfaces you are going to use with soap and water first. Following up with a 70% ethanol wipe will be beneficial in this case. If you do not have access to a laminar flow hood, you can try spraying the air in the vicinity with a sanitizer.

Another way to sterilize the immediate air is to do your work near an open fire like a burning candle or a Bunsen burner. You need to wash all the tools with soap and water, and maybe follow up with a 70% ethanol wipe to ensure sterility. You can run the metal tools through open fire to sterilize them as well. Do not forget to maintain hygiene yourself as well. Clean your hands and any body parts that may come in contact. Wear clean clothes or use a clean apron. You can also wear a surgical mask, and surgical gloves and cover your hair during the process.

Making the spore print

You will need the following materials;

Mushroom of your choice, sterilized blades, tweezers, and piece of clean paper to get the print, glass bowl or a cup wide enough to cover the entire mushroom, zip-lock bag, alcohol.

How to extract the spore print:

Choose a healthy and fully grown mushroom. Cut the mushroom cap using your sterilized blade. Place the cap on the piece of paper, gills down. Cover the cap with a glass cup or a bowl. Let it sit for 24 hours. After 24 hours remove the glass cup and cap from the paper. You’ll find the spore print is settled on the paper now. Use your sterile tweezers to lift the paper up and place it inside the zip-lock bag and seal it well. Make sure the entire piece of paper fits inside the bag.

You can cut paper to fit the zip-lock bag prior to obtaining the print. The piece of paper can be replaced by other materials if you want a more durable solution. You can use glass, melamine, perplex, or stainless steel for this purpose. After placing the spore print in the bag, you have to store it in a cool, dry place like a refrigerator. Under ideal conditions, a spore print could last for years. You should also note down the information about the strain on the bag for future reference.

How to preserve mushroom spores

Mushroom spores can be preserved as spore prints or spore syringes. To store spore prints for a longer time, they should be placed in a cool, dark place like a refrigerator. Spore prints should be stored in a very dry state and the container or the plastic bag used to store the spore print should be completely sterile. Spore prints can go bad when touched by humidity, therefore the packaging should be sealed tightly.

Spore syringes are a very effective method to keep mushroom spores viable for a longer time. These are simply syringes filled with sterile water solution with mushroom spores. They can be used to inoculate growth substrates with a mushroom species of your choice.

Spore syringes have a low risk of contamination, as the spores are suspended in a water solution. Liquid culture syringes also should be stored in a cool dry place, preferably in a refrigerator. They should be kept inside the packaging they arrive until they are ready to use. This way they can be kept viable even for years. If you are handling several species at once or you are interested in keeping a library of mushroom spores, it is beneficial to have a proper cataloging system to avoid confusion later.

If you are keeping several species together in one refrigerator, you should also take necessary precautions to avoid cross-contamination. When the spores are ready to use, they should be re-hydrated before introducing them into the growth substrate. Dry spores have a tendency to not develop mycelia at all.

How To Extract Spores From Mushrooms

How to make mushroom spores syringe

Spore syringes are another effective method to store and transport viable mushroom spores. They are available to be bought online or can be prepared with your own mushrooms at home. Preparing mushroom spore syringes is a fairly simple process. But similar to preparing the spore prints, maintaining good hygiene and sterile conditions is extremely important. To prepare spore syringes, you should choose a good spore print. A large and dark spore print is likely to contain more spores, therefore can be enough to make at least 30 syringes.

Things you will need;

A spore print of your choice, empty syringes (Newly bought), water, a conical flask or a glass jar, candle or a Bunsen burner, scalpel, tweezers, aluminum foil, pressure cooker. Prior to beginning the procedure, make sure everything from the tools, glass wares, and table tops to hands is clean. Preferably wear a surgical mask and gloves. In addition to cleaning them with soap and water, you should wipe all the tools, equipment, and surfaces with 70% ethanol, if possible. Contamination during preparation steps will have drastic effects on your cultures later.

Steps for preparing a spore syringe

First and foremost you should sterilize your water if you haven’t done it already. To do this, fill half of the flask or the glass jar with clean water and seal the top with aluminum foil. Put the flask in the pressure cooker. Do not submerge the flask with water and start double boiling. Let the pressure reach up to 15psi and maintain that pressure for another 30 minutes. Once the 30 minutes is over, remove the cooker from the heat and let it cool overnight. The water should be completely cooled before introducing the spores to avoid heat damage.

The next day, remove the foil cover from your flask using your tweezers. Make sure the tweezers are properly sterilized. You can sterilize metal tools by placing them in an open flame until the metal glows red. Make sure to cool the tools properly before using them. Your spores will lose their viability If you handle the spores with hot tools.

Take your spore print from its container. Use the sterilized scalpel to scrape the spores off of the paper into the flask with pre-sterilized water. Shake the flask lightly in circular motions to ensure the spores are evenly distributed in the water. Take your sterilized syringes and using the nozzle, fill the syringe with spore suspension in the flask. Place the syringes in a sterilized container in a refrigerator until further use. The spore syringes prepared this way can be kept viable for years when stored in ideal conditions.

Final thoughts

I think now you know how to extract spores from mushrooms. if you follow the guideline carefully you can extract mushroom spores successfully. Happy mushrooming to all of you.

Credit to : Gary Pilarchik (The Rusted Garden)

Read Next : What Do You Do with Spore Prints?


Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Environment and Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. My mission is to help other. You can use this knowledge to enhance your life THE BEST environments you possibly can.

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