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Can You Spot Spores in the Wild?

If you consider yourself to have an eye for detail, I have a fun challenge for you: Next time you spot mushrooms out in the wild, see if your 'eagle eyes' can spot the spores!

Russula sp. 05/24 Chapel Hill, NC

On our daily walk through the forest today we came across some Russula mushrooms hiding under a loose layer of leaf litter and pine needles. We were lucky enough to spot a taller specimen overlapping a smaller one, and pulled back the top cap to reveal a beautiful white spore print!

Fungi fruiting bodies release billions of tiny reproductive cells called spores. Essentially, spores are to mushrooms what seeds are to plants. Mushrooms are fungal structures that grow up from an underground mycelial network; at the same time, if they're healthy enough, these fruiting bodies release a hefty amount of spores to increase chance of reproduction.

Throughout the genus of "Russulae" in particular there are over 700 species, with spore prints ranging from white to cream to even orange in color. Other mushrooms release spores in a variety of colors through different fertile surfaces besides gills, including shelf-like undersides, layered 'spine-y' structures, perforated poofs and much more. Next time you take a walk and find yourself admiring some fungi, see if you can spot any spores beneath those surfaces. Finding a spore print and recognizing spore color is a great way to start the journey of identifying a mushroom.

Did you know you can create your own spore prints?

All you need is a mushroom!

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