"HOW TO" Guide to making a spore print of a mushroom

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"HOW TO" Guide to making a spore print of a mushroom

Post by adampembs » Thu Jul 02, 2015 9:33 am

Decent identification keys to mushrooms always start with spore colour, which is best observed by taking a spore print.

There are different ways of doing this, but usually it involved cutting off the cap of the mushroom and placing it on a piece of white paper or card, putting a cover on and leaving overnight. In the case of white spored mushrooms, it is better to use a piece of glass, people with microscope often use slides, at least with smaller fungi. A guess of spore colour can be made from the colour of the mature gills. However, like with shop bought "ordinary mushrooms" the gills of immature mushrooms are usually paler, eg pink, but turn brown or black as they mature.

With larger fungi, the method above usually works well. In the case of small fungi which have a tendency to dry out, it can sometimes help to moisten the cap with a drop of water. I use a small box with compartments, and leave it in the fridge. This keeps the humidity up and reduces the rate of decay of fungi.

Interpretation of colour is best done with a colour chart. Truly accurate colour charts are very expensive, but some guide books (eg Michael Jordan's Encyclopaedia of fungi) come with more approximate charts which are better than nothing. Perhaps the hardest colour to describe is the range of mid browns, and brownish pinks. In general, if it has a hint of pink, more like a salmon pink, you describe it as pink.

Here are some examples
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Re: "HOW TO" Guide to making a spore print of a mushroom

Post by Lancashire Lad » Thu Jul 02, 2015 10:31 am

Good thread Adam,

A spore print should be one of the first things to be done when trying to name an unidentified find!

My usual method, along with other useful hints, is described in the "Help Us To Help You Identify Your Finds" thread: - viewtopic.php?f=4&t=49

Take a spore print: -
If possible take a spore print. Knowing the colour of the spores can really help in identifying fungi to genus.

To take a spore print, cut off the stem just below the cap, support the cap above a small flat piece of glass (eg. A microscope slide, or the glass from a small photo frame would be ideal – but beware of cut fingers!!!).
Cover the glass and cap with an upturned dish (to prevent draughts) and leave until sufficient spores have dropped onto the glass.
Depending on the individual fungus, this might take only a few minutes, or several hours.

Some authorities advocate taking spore prints on white or black paper/card, but when taken on glass, white or black paper can be placed below the glass to best highlight the spore print.

NB: when determining colour, the spore print should be scraped together into a small pile, and then pressed flat to give a solid colour to work from. (Using the edge of another microscope slide for this, and then pressing the pile between two microscope slides is ideal).

This article on taking spore prints, (from Field Mycology Journal Vol.6(3), 2005), is worth reading too: -
http://www.fungi4schools.org/Reprints/M ... prints.pdf

There is a basic "online" spore colour chart here. (Although far too basic for definitive identification, it gives a good idea of the general range of spore colours that might be encountered, and can provide a useful pointer to genera/species with particular spore colour): -

It's worth reinforcing what Adam said above, that accurate colour interpretation is best done by reference to a colour chart.
Anything else can only be subjective, as one person's "light brown" might be another person's "dark pink".
Also, we all know that digital cameras often give incorrect colour rendering, (depending on the lighting, and camera's "white balance" settings at the time of taking the photo), plus, all computer monitors aren't identically colour calibrated, so even a photo of a spore print can only be used as an "approximate guide" to the actual colour seen by the person taking the print.
However, knowing that the print was white, cream, light brown, dark brown, black, etc., is much more informative to anyone trying to help with identification, than not knowing anything about the colour. ;)


EDIT - The standard "Flora of British Fungi Colour Identification Chart", (also useful for describing cap and stipe colours), as issued with the RBG British Fungus Flora series of books: -
is still available from Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, priced at the princely sum of 50p plus postage and packing.
(Note that one of these charts is supplied free with any book purchased from the British Fungus Flora series, but not all volumes are still in print).
See: BFF Colour Identification Chart, (third item down), on this page: -
http://www.rbge.org.uk/about-us/publica ... blications
The chart can be useful, because the colours included on it are referred to in the aforesaid series of books (and several others), and each colour is an actual colour matched paint swatch.
So, in theory, any given colour should be exactly the same, whether it be on my copy of the chart, your copy, or any other copy that's been issued.

Common sense is not so common.

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