How to collect mushroom spores

Learning how to make a mushroom spore print is an essential skill for any budding mycologist.

If you’re interested in foraging for wild mushrooms, spore printing can help identify exactly what mushroom you’ve found.

If instead, you’re interested in growing mushrooms from spores, you need to know how to properly collect and store the spores to complete the mushroom life cycle.

Either way, the spore printing process is basically the same.


Although not technically accurate, mushroom spores can be thought of as “seeds”, with each spore containing exactly half of the genetic information required to produce an actual mushroom.

The spores are released into the environment from the gills (or pores) located under the cap of a mature mushroom. They then get carried away by air currents, and if they land in the right place, will eventually produce fine white strands of mycelium.

The mycelium will grow and eventually produce a new mushroom fruiting body, starting the cycle all over again.

Spores come in all different shapes, colors and sizes depending on the species- they really are amazing! And to think that a single mushroom can release billions of spores into the air.

That being said, the only factor visible to the human eye is the spore color, which is why taking a proper spore print is such an important characteristic for identifying mushrooms.

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The process for making a spore print is pretty simple.

Basically, you just need to allow spores to fall from the cap of a mature mushroom and onto a piece of paper, tinfoil or glass.

This method below works well for both gilled mushrooms and mushrooms with pores.

What You’ll Need

1. A Mushroom Fruiting Body

2. Printer Paper (white or black), tinfoil,  or glass

3. A drinking glass or a bowl to cover the mushroom cap

4. A Ziploc bag for storing


Mushroom spores aren’t produced until near the end of the mushroom life cycle, so try and find a mushroom that is mature in age.

When young, many mushrooms will even have a “veil” covering the gills and protecting them as the mushroom develops. If you try and take a spore print of these young mushrooms, it’s very likely that no spores will fall.


To make spore printing easier, carefully remove the cap of the mushroom from the stem at the highest possible point. Again, if you have a shelf mushroom or an oyster-type mushroom you might just be able to use the whole thing to make the print.


Lay the cap of the mushroom with the gills upside down onto a piece of paper. For the majority of specimens, a normal sheet of white paper works fine.

However, some mushrooms have white spores- so if you are taking prints for the purposes of identification, you might want to consider also getting some black paper.

If you’re planning on growing out the mushrooms from spores, it’s better to make the print on tinfoil. Not only is tinfoil more sterile (you can wipe it down with alcohol), it’s also better for making spore syringes and scraping spores on to agar plates.


You want the spores to fall directly down onto the paper from the mushroom cap. To do this, cover the cap with a glass or small bowl which will prevent air currents from carrying away your spores.

After 6-12 hours, remove the cap. You should have a fully formed mushroom spore print.

To store the prints, fold over some of the paper or tin foil and store them in a ziploc bag. Spore prints can be stored anywhere at room temperature, and can last decades.

There is no need whatsoever to refrigerate the spore print, even if you are planning to use the spores for cultivation later down the road.


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The color of a mushroom spore print can be a key identification factor for many species.

That being said, some discretion definitely needs to be used and spore color alone should never be used to identify a species for consumption.

Identification guides will often be quite vague in the description of spore color.

Sometimes it will be quite obvious, like white or purple- but how are you supposed to tell the difference between rusty-brown and orange-brown? White and cream?

Everybody sees and interprets colors a little differently, so be sure to have alternate ways of identifying species. Also, if you are taking a spore from a species and you have no idea what to expect, consider grabbing a few fruits and making multiple spore prints on different colors of paper.

Here are some examples of different mushrooms and their spore colors:

  • Oyster Mushrooms – Typically White
  • Button Mushrooms (Agaricus species) – Usually Brown
  • Reishi – Brown
  • Shaggy Mane (Coprinus) – Black
  • Amanita Species (Death Cap, Fly Agaric) – Usually White
  • Enoki (Flamulina Velutipes) – White
  • Psilocybe Species – Dark Purple/Black

Other than color, most spore characteristics are not visible to the naked eye and need to be identified by looking at the spores under a microscope. This is usually done by making the spore print on a microscope slide. Spores can all sorts of shapes- oval, square, circular- as well as being vastly different sizes.

Since most people don’t have a spare microscope laying around, it’s generally not a great characteristic for casual identification.


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