Mushroom Anatomy

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Updated on Aug 22, 2013

Mushrooms are fungi. They reproduce both sexually and asexually. Many fungi in our environment act as decomposers. That means they can help remove unwanted materials from the environment, such as dead leaves or animal remains. Fungi can also cause disease, this is why there is often a negative connotation associated with them.


How can learning mushroom anatomy help us understand how mushrooms grow and thrive?


  • Mushroom
  • Plastic knife
  • Sheet of white paper
  • Plastic cup
  • Hairspray
  • Magnifying lens


  1. Carefully examine your mushroom. Using the supplied illustration, identify the following parts:
    1. Cap
    2. Gills
    3. Scales
    4. Stalk
  2. Using a plastic knife, cut off the mushroom stem close to the gills. Take care not to damage or disturb the gills.
  3. Place the mushroom cap on a sheet of white paper, gills facing down, and cover with the plastic cup. Leave overnight (12 hours or more).
  4. Carefully remove the cup and the mushroom cap from the paper.
  5. Holding he hairspray approximately two feet above the paper, gently spray the paper with hairspray. This preserves the spores that should have fallen off the mushroom overnight.
  6. Allow the hairspray time to dry. Examine the spore print using your magnifying lens. The spores may be difficult to see. Hold your paper toward the light and the spores may be easier to see.
  7. Why do you believe the spores are located where they are?
  8. What was the purpose of covering the mushroom with a cup while it was left overnight?

Angela Pike has been in the world of elementary education for almost a decade, working as a classroom teacher, school writing specialist, and later a school administrator. After a recent leave from the education realm to stay at home with her children, she channeled her passion for education, science, and writing into a composing articles and educational activities for various companies.

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