Welcome to ON(line)SC's Virtual Learning!


Good morning Naturalists! 


Here's a joke for you: Why did the mushroom get invited to all the parties?  Because he was a pretty fun guy! 


Okay, now that we've gotten the terrible joke out of the way, let's talk about the great kingdom of Fungi.

One more joke...it was too easy!


To begin, let's ask one of our previous teacher-naturalists what makes a fungus?

Finally, here's an activity you can do from home!   For this activity, you need one or two mushrooms, a piece of plain white paper (you can use the back of a piece of scrap paper), a jar or other container, and a knife.  This will help you explore the different parts of a mushroom and even make your own spore print!  This is the process that Dr. Joanie, one of our Teacher Naturalists, used to dissect a mushroom here at ONSC:


If you are fortunate, and your parents permit, you might find a mushroom in your own yard, especially on a warm day if it rained the day before.  Otherwise, you can get one from the store. Look for a mature mushroom, one whose cup has opened. (Fresh mushrooms work better than store bought mushrooms, but if your first attempt does not succeed, you can try again.)  You will also need a piece of clean white paper and a jar.  CAUTION: Some mushrooms are poisonous, but even if you used an edible mushroom, do not eat the mushroom you use for this activity.  Wash your hands afterwards.

Carefully remove the cap of the mushroom and place it gill-side down on the paper.  Flat mushrooms work best. You can put a drop of water on top of the cap to help it release the spores.

Sometimes the cap of the mushroom curls under and covers the gills.  Before placing the cap on the paper, you can cut away this part to help the spores fall on the paper.  The photograph below shows a mushroom cut in half.  One half shows how the cap can block the spores. The other half shows this part cut away.

Cover the cap with the jar. 

Now comes the waiting time.  This may take only 2 hours, or even as long as 24 hours.  The fresher the mushroom, the less time is needed. Keep checking.  When you feel that it is finished, remove the jar. What happened? 


After a while, spores fell onto the paper making a pattern called a SPORE PRINT.  What color are your spores? Spore prints are often very beautiful. In fact, people use mushrooms to make SPORE PRINT ART.  You have just made your own spore print art! With your parents’ permission, take a picture and send it to ONSC. We will share some of these online. 

In addition to making a spore print, you can also dissect a mushroom.  I like to draw pictures or take photos of each step. The top of the mushroom is called the CAP, and it looks a little like a cap.  On the underside of the cap are the GILLS. This is where spores are made. The cap is held up by the STEM. About half way up the stem, depending upon the mushroom, is the RING, also called the ANNULUS.  Not all mushrooms have rings. At the bottom of the mushroom there is sometimes a CUP. The cup reminds me of the bottom of an eggshell right after a little chick has hatched. Sometimes there are little root-like threads hanging from the bottom of the stem.  These are pieces of mycelia.  


1.  First draw or photograph your mushroom from two views as shown.  

2.  Carefully, with your parents’ supervision, slice the mushroom in half lengthwise.  A table knife works just fine. This is called a longitudinal section.

When the mushroom is sliced this way, you can see its different parts.  Look at the drawings below to see the names of each part. If you make drawings yourself, label them. The stalk holds up the cap.  The cap holds the gills. This is where spores are produced.  

This page shows button mushrooms, which are often sold in grocery stores.  The drawings on the bottom part of the page are greatly magnified, to help you see parts of the mushroom that are too small to see without a microscope.  The first shows what the gills look like under a microscope. The hymenium is where the spores are made. The next two drawings are magnified even more to show the structures that actually make the spores.  Spores are only produced by fully mature mushrooms.

This second page shows shiitake mushrooms.  These can also be found in grocery stores. At the bottom of the stalk (also called the stipe) you can sometimes see mycelia, the thread-like part of the mushroom that grows underground or in dead matter.  The mycelia form the mushroom.

There are many different types of mushrooms in nature, of different shapes, sizes and colors.  I hope you will have a chance to find some.

As a final part to today's focus, we talk about one of the most common questions we get on the trail.  “Can I eat this?”

Thanks again everyone for supporting us!  Have you found a cool mushroom lately?  Did you do a spore print?  Share your photos and stories with us on our Facebook page or on Socialmedia@onsc.us and remember, we'll be sharing some on Friday!

If you enjoyed watching today's lessons and would like to purchase one of our ONSC Virtual Merchandise Packages, which includes an ONSC Program T-shirt and field journal, click to go to our Online Store


During this time, we only have limited amount of merchandise available for purchase. 


Merchandise orders will ship First Class USPS every two weeks on the following dates:

April 16, April 30, May 14 & May 28


The Ozark Natural Science Center is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) residential field science education center located in Northwest Arkansas.

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1905 Madison 1305
Huntsville, AR  72740