What are Mushroom Spores?
If you are anything like us at PNW Spore, Co., then you are fascinated with the world of nature’s wonder -mushrooms! Let’s dive into where and how mushrooms originated. We’ll begin with the question: What are mushroom spores?
Mushroom spores are the microscopic cells that are responsible for the reproduction and growth of mushrooms. Spores are produced in staggering numbers by healthy and productive mushrooms when germination conditions are just right. Mushroom spores are unique to each mushroom variety, identifying exactly which type of mushroom will be produced and its properties. These properties can determine the potential use for one of nature’s most dynamic resources. They may be used for food (Edible Mushrooms), for healing properties (Medicinal Mushrooms), or, properties containing diverse compounds that facilitate a profound spiritual journey (Psilocybe Cubensis Mushrooms).
It’s important to acknowledge that there are dangerous and poisonous mushroom varieties. It takes a skilled forager to correctly distinguish between edible and inedible mushrooms in the wild.
Where does one find mushroom spores?
A mushroom spore is a unicellular organism (uni…that’s one, folks) paramount to the reproduction and growth of mushroom fungi. Spores are located in the gills, teeth, or pores on the underside of the mushroom cap. They either drop or are ejected from the underside of this cap. The extremely small size of the spores can be carried on gentle air currents and deposited on both non-fertile and fertile surfaces. Those that do find fertile conditions will extend shoots called mycelium into the ground and intertwine with other shoots to begin the reproduction process.
Psilocybe Cubensis Mushrooms (Penis Envy, Blue Meanie, PEZ Amazonian, etc.), Edible Mushrooms (Shiitake, Portobello, Morel, etc.), and Medicinal Mushrooms (Lion’s Mane, Turkey Tail, Chaga, etc.) are examples of mushroom varieties that have been identified and utilized for thousands of years, respectively. Side note: how cool are some of these mushroom names!? Much like the fruit of a tree and the seeds within the fruit, mushrooms produce billions of spores daily. The fruiting bodies produced by these spores have numerous beneficial properties.
As Nicholas Money, Botanist at Miami University in Ohio, says, “mushrooms are a masterpiece in natural engineering.”
Spore prints (and why they matter)
So how do we capture these spores and identify their properties and potential uses? Many times, the answer is a spore print. A spore print is a taxonomical technique that can be used to identify differences between species of mushrooms. Spore prints are created by placing the underside of the mushroom cap on a surface to allow the gills, teeth, or pore-side of the cap to drop millions of spores producing a unique print. Not dissimilar to a fingerprint.
Mycologists will study the spore print itself or harvest the spores from the print to make mushroom spore syringes. The spore syringe can be used to preserve the spores and view them under a microscope for further study. This allows fungal biologists and mycologists to learn more about the ever-evolving use of mushrooms in our society.
Amazing, right? Now here’s a mind-bender for you: What came first, the mushroom or the spore?