This section is from the book "Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them", by W. Hamilton Gibson. Also available from Amazon: Our Edible Toadstools And Mushrooms And How To Distinguish Them.
We have seen the myriad-fold dispersion of its potential atoms in the cloud of spore-smoke, but who ever thinks of a spore-cloud from a mushroom or a toadstool? Yet the method of the Puff-ball is followed by all the other fungi, with only less con-spicuousness. The Puff-ball gives a visible salute, but any one of the common mushrooms or toadstools will afford us a much prettier and more surprising account of itself if we but give it the opportunity. This big yellow toadstool out under the poplar-tree - its golden cap studded with brownish scurfy warts, its under surface beset with closely plaited laminae or gills - who could ever associate the cloud of dry smoke with this moist, creamy-white surface? We may sit here all day and watch it closely, but we shall see no sign of anything resembling smoke or dust, albeit a filmy emanation is continually eluding us, floating away from beneath its golden cap, the eager breeze taking such jealous care of the continual shower that our eyes fail to perceive a hint of it.
Do you doubt it? You need wait but a few moments for a visible demonstration of the fact in a pretty experiment, which, when once observed, will certainly be resorted to as a frequent pastime in leisure moments when the toadstool or mushroom is available.
Here is a very ordinary-looking specimen growing beside the stone steps at our back door perhaps. Its top is gray, its gills beneath are fawn-colored. We may shake it as rudely as we will, and yet we shall get no response such as the Puff-ball will give us. But let us lay it upon a piece of white paper, gills downward, on the mantel, and cover it with a tumbler or finger-bowl, so as to absolutely exclude the least admission of air. At the expiration of five minutes, perhaps, we may detect a filmy pinkish-yellow tint on the paper, following beneath the upraised border of the cap, like a shadow faintly lined with white. In a quarter of an hour the tinted deposit is perceptible across the room, and in an hour, if we carefully raise the mushroom, the perfect spore-print is revealed in all its beauty - a spore-tint portrait of the under surface of the mushroom - a pink-brown disk with a white centre, which indicates the point of contact of the cut stem, and white radiating lines, representing the edges of the thin gills, many of them as fine and delicate as a cobweb.
Every fresh species experimented with will yield its surprise in the markings and color of the prints.
These spore-deposits are, of course, fugitive, and will easily rub off at the slightest touch. But inasmuch as many of these specimens, either from their beauty of form or exquisite color, or for educational or scientific purposes, it will be desirable to preserve, I append simple rules for the making and "fixing" of the prints by a process which was original with the writer, and which he has found most effective for their preservation.
Making The Print
Take a piece of smooth white writing-paper and coat its surface evenly with a thin solution of gum-arabic, dextrine, or other mucilage, and allow it to dry. Pin this, gummed side uppermost, to a board or table, preferably over a soft cloth, so that it will lie perfectly flat. To insure a good print the mushroom specimen should be fresh and firm, and the gills or spore-surface free from breaks or bruises. Cut the stem off about level with the gills, lay the mushroom, spore-surface downward, upon the paper, and cover with a tumbler, finger-bowl, or other vessel with a smooth, even rim, to absolutely exclude the slightest ingress of air. After a few hours, perhaps even less, the spores will be seen through the glass on the paper at the extreme edge of the mushroom, their depth of color indicating the density of the deposit. If we now gently lift the glass, and with the utmost care remove the fungus, perhaps by the aid of pins previously inserted, in a perfectly vertical direction, without the slightest side motion, the spore-print in all its beauty is revealed - perhaps a rich brown circular patch with exquisite radiating white lines, marking the direction and edges of the gills, if an Agaric; perhaps a delicate pink, more or less clouded disk, here and there distinctly and finely honey-combed with white lines, indicating that our specimen is one of the polypores, as a Boletus. Other prints will yield rich golden disks, and there will be prints of varying red, lilac, green, orange, salmon-pink, and brown and purple, variously lined in accordance with the nature of their respective parent gills or pores.