Collecting mushroom spores is a critical step for those looking to grow mushrooms or study their genetics. Properly collected and stored spores can remain viable for several years. Below is a comprehensive guide on how to collect spores efficiently and safely:
- Mature mushroom specimens
- Clean, white paper or aluminum foil
- Sterile tweezers or forceps
- Sterile scalpel or knife
- Glass jars or ziplock bags for storage
- Isopropyl alcohol (70%) or another sterilizing agent
- Disposable gloves
- Face mask
- A clean, draft-free workspace (still air box or glove box can be helpful)
- Preparation: Clean your workspace thoroughly using isopropyl alcohol or another disinfectant. Ensure the room has minimal drafts, as air currents can scatter spores and introduce contaminants.
- Safety First: Wear disposable gloves and a face mask. Spores are fine particles that can be easily inhaled. The mask will protect you and also prevent contaminants from your breath from reaching the spore print.
- Choosing the Right Mushroom: Select a mature mushroom cap. It should be fully opened but not too old or degraded. The cap’s edges shouldn’t be turned upwards, as this can indicate the spores have already been released.
- Preparing the Mushroom: Using the sterile scalpel or knife, cut the stem off the mushroom as close to the cap as possible.
- Placing the Cap: Place the cap gills/pores facing down on the clean white paper or aluminum foil. It’s a good idea to place a cup or jar over the cap to reduce the chance of contaminants. Tip: Place a drop of water on the cap, then cover with a cup or jar.
- Waiting for the Print: Allow the cap to sit for several hours to a full day. The spores will drop from the gills/pores and deposit onto the paper or foil below, forming a “spore print.” Depending on the mushroom species, these prints can be various colors, from jet black to purple-brown.
- Collection: Once the spore print is thick enough, carefully lift the mushroom cap. Using tweezers or gloves, fold the spore-covered paper or foil without touching the print.
- Storage: Store the folded spore print inside a ziplock bag or glass jar to protect it from moisture and contamination. Make sure to label the spore print with the species name and collection date.
Tips and Tricks:
- Avoid Overripe Mushrooms: If a mushroom cap has become too old, it might have already released most of its spores.
- Multiple Prints: To increase the chances of getting a good print, consider using multiple caps at the same time.
- Environmental Control: If you’re in an especially dusty or contaminated environment, consider using a still air box or a glove box. This provides an extra layer of protection against contaminants.
- Spore Syringe Creation: If you’re planning to inoculate growth media directly, you can scrape spores off the print into sterilized water to create a spore syringe.
- Limit Exposure: Once you have a good spore print, avoid exposing it to open air unnecessarily to reduce the risk of contamination.
- Document: Always document your spore prints with information like the strain, date of collection, and any other relevant notes. This will be invaluable if you decide to use the spores at a later date.
Collecting mushroom spores can be a rewarding endeavor, especially if you’re looking to grow mushrooms or study their genetics. With the right technique and attention to detail, you can ensure a clean and robust spore print that can serve multiple purposes.