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Spores, Spores Everywhere!

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Author: Jane Healey

Grade Level: 6th; Type: Biology

Objective:

The goal of this experiment is to record the spore prints left by a mushroom.  Capturing these prints demonstrates how plants produce spores and allows students to view them.

Research Questions:

  • How do spore plants release their spores? 
  • How many spores come from one plant? 
  • How do the spores compare to each other?

Spores are similar to seeds; plants disperse them, and they spread to other areas, producing new plants.  Unlike seeds, spores do not contain the nutritional requirements for new growth, so they need to land in optimal conditions to survive.  Many spore plants exist, but mushrooms are the most common and easiest to study.

In this project the independent variables are the variety of mushroom caps used as samples.  The dependent variables are the prints that those caps create.  The constants are the materials and conditions.

Materials:

  • Open mushrooms, preferably fresh from the backyard or field.
  • Garden or plastic gloves.
  • Black and white poster board.
  • Notebook.
  • Plastic cups or containers.
  • Hairspray.
  • Magnifying glass.

Experimental Procedure:

  1. With an adult, locate a fresh outcropping of mushrooms and with gloves on, pick off several caps.  (Getting samples from more than one plant or more than one location provides varied results to compare and contrast.)
  2. Place mushroom caps with gills facing down on the poster board and label the sample.
  3. Cover the cap with plastic cups/containers.
  4. Wait 24 hours and check beneath the caps for “prints” of spores.  If none appear, check in another 24 hours and so on.
  5. Once the prints show up clearly, remove the plastic and the cap and wait another 24 hours for it to dry.
  6. Stand at least 12 inches from the poster board and coat the print with hairspray to preserve it.
  7. Examine the print with a magnifying glass and make detailed observations.
  8. Use a notebook to record the results, designing a table that calls for detail and comparison:

Sample

Size (mm)

Color(s)

Description

Similar/Different

1

5

Ochre

Orange

Tan

 

The spores are thickest along the bottom edge. 

There are so many that they merge into one mass.

 

They colors are like Sample 3, though they came from separate locations.  The size is larger than the others.

 

Terms/Concepts: Spore plants;  Gills;  Fungi

References:

  • Discover Nature Around the House: Things to Know and Things to Do, Elizabeth Lawlor and Pat Archer (2003).
  • Ferns, Mosses and other Spore-Producing Plants, Steve Parker (2009).  
  • http://www.saburchill.com/index.html.
  • Skunk Cabbage, Sundew Plants and Strangle Figs: And 18 More of the Strangest Plants on Earth, Sally Kneidel (2001).  
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