Making a spore print of the mushroom Volvariella volvacea
shown in composite: (photo lower half) mushroom cap laid on white and dark paper; (photo upper half) cap removed after 24 hours showing pinkish-tan spore print. A 3.5 cm glass slide placed in middle allows for examination of spore characteristics under a microscope.
The spore print of a mushroom is an important diagnostic character in most handbooks for identifying mushrooms. It shows the color of the mushroom spores if viewed en masse. A spore print is made by placing the spore producing surface flat on a sheet of dark and white paper or on a sheet of clear, stiff plastic, which facilitates moving the spore print to a darker or lighter surface for improved contrast; for example, it is easier to determine whether the spore print is pure white or, rather, very slightly pigmented. The mushroom is left for several hours, often overnight, in this manner. When the mushroom is removed, the color of the spores should be visible. Mycologists often use glass slides, which allow for quick examination of spores under a microscope. A mushroom cannot be identified from its spore print alone; the spore print is only one characteristic used in making a taxonomic determination.
Historically the classification of many families of fungi were based on spore colour, an example being Tricholomataceae being a large family containing many fungi whose common factor was having white spores. However recent molecular research has shown some interesting relationships, with some fungi of disparate spore colours showing close relations.
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