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One of the things that helps identify types of fungi is their spore colour so, though I try to avoid collecting fungi – preferring instead to leave them for everyone to enjoy, for the fungi themselves to release their spores and thus multiply, and for insects to feast upon – I do occasionally collect a specimen to bring home to spore print. For the uninitiated, this is usually a simple matter of turning the mushroom upside down on a white or coloured piece of paper (or a glass slide, if you’re also planning microscopic examination), covering it with something like a glass jar, and waiting several hours. (If your fungus is not mushroom-shaped, the process can vary but let’s keep it simple today.)

The reward after those several hours have elapsed is not only discovering what spore colour your mushroom has produced but also, if you’re lucky, getting the added benefit of a very pretty spore print. Spores are like tiny spots of dust so can easily be disturbed by the slightest waft of air but it is possible to preserve your print by spraying it with a very light sealant. I’m still experimenting with this process – I’ve tried hairspray but the spray droplets contained too much moisture which ruined the print. If you’ve ever tried this and have some ideas to share, please do add a comment below, and PLEASE DO NOT go out and pick every mushroom you see just to try this. Fungi are not like blackberries or apples, they need to be left where they are to send out their spores!

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