I don’t know what it is about finding a mushroom growing out in the yard or along a nature trail – my kids are always fascinated by them! I usually have to remind them not to pick the mushrooms! I bet they would LOVE truffle hunting! Occasionally when we have find a large amount of mushrooms we’ll do my favorite “Mushroom Spore Activity” and learn about this curious plant.
All you need is a fresh (picked from the ground-not the grocery store!) mushrooms, a knife or pair of scissors, and a white piece of paper! Make sure you do your project the day you pick your mushroom! And of course please use caution when handling unknown mushrooms!
Use your knife or scissors to cut the stem of the mushroom off, as close to the cap as you can get it without damaging the gills.
Inside each mushroom, up inside the gills are spores. Spores are the reproductive “seed” of the mushroom. But you can’t really see them if you look at the underside of the mushroom. (You can find a lot more detailed explanation about the spore discharge of a mushroom here.)
Simply take your mushroom cap and place it with the gills facing down onto a piece of white paper. We had two mushrooms, so each of our boys claimed one as their own! Place your mushroom on the white paper and find a dark place for it to sit overnight. We placed ours inside a closet.
Now, we had a bit of a malfunction with our mushrooms because as you can sort of see above it was full of algae growth which I believe prevented the spores from dropping properly. What it is SUPPOSED to look like you can partially see below. When the spores drop out of the mushroom cap it will drop onto the white paper and leave what looks like an impression of the gills. (it’s pretty cool!)
When in fact it is really an impression of the spores in a gill formation. When you have a non-algae covered mushroom your paper SHOULD show an entire bottom cap imprint from the spores dropping. Essentially it mirrors what the bottom of the cap looks like.
Although we had an unexpected issue with our spores activity, all was not lost. We still learned about mushrooms, the parts of a mushroom, and what sort of environment they grow in! Collect several mushrooms and make a whole collage from the spore droppings!
OBVIOUS DISCLAIMER: PLEASE make sure your children understand NOT to eat, taste, or lick their mushrooms! (or lick their hands after handling the mushrooms!) Although most garden mushrooms are not poisonous take proper hand-washing precautions when handling these plants!