Examining A Fungus: Close-Up Look at a Mushroom

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Dec 14, 2010

Mushrooms belong to the Fungi kingdom. Most members of this kingdom are multicellular, meaning they have more than one cell. Fungi are not able to produce their own food, so they are called heterotrophs. A mushroom has an umbrella-shaped top called a cap. The underside of the cap has gills that produce spores, reproductive structures. The stem or stalk, also called the stipe, is made up of many hair-like filaments called hyphae. In this activity you will examine a mushroom to become acquainted with its parts.

Examining a Fungus


Mushroom (common grocery-store variety)

Paper towels

Plastic knife

Magnifying glass

Index card


  1. Examine the mushroom carefully and locate the cap, gills, spores, stipe, and hyphae. Make a sketch of the mushroom on an index card and label the cap, stipe, and gills.
  2. Use the magnifying glass to examine the gills on the underside of the cap. Look for spores on the gills.
  3. Use the knife to make a slice, lengthwise, through the stipe and cap. Use the magnifying glass to locate some individual hyphae within the stipe.

Follow-Up Questions

  1. Describe the appearance of the gills. Why do you think the gills are located on the underside of the cap?
  2. Describe the appearance of the hyphae. What role do you think they serve in the mushroom?


  1. Answers will vary.
  2. Answers may vary, but students should indicate that the hyphae are string-like structures whose major role is to obtain nutrients for the mushroom.


Use tweezers to lift a small piece of a gill out of the cap. Make a wet mount of the gill on a microscope slide. Observe the slide under low power. Do you see any spores? What do they look like?

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