What’s this?

Oops! Did someone spill brown sugar under the microscope?

spores

Millions of mushroom spores! (Photo: SPES)

Actually, it’s spores! Mushroom spores, to be exact. While we can’t be certain of the exact species of mushroom, we do know that certain mushroom species are capable of producing approximately 30 billion spores per day. How many spores might be in this picture alone?

Fall means mushroom season! If you’ve been anywhere in Stanley Park this fall, you’ve likely seen a huge variety of mushrooms. The mushroom that produced this spore print was found at the southern trailhead of the South Creek Trail.

spore print

A mushroom spore print (Photo: SPES)

Spores are essential to mushroom reproduction. But mushrooms are sessile; that is, they cannot travel on their own to spread the next generation. Instead, they rely on environmental factors to help spread their spores. Light, dry, powder-like spores like these rely on wind for dispersal. Some botanists theorize that some mushrooms create their own winds to spread their spores! By releasing water vapor into the air, a cooler micro-climate is created around the fruiting body of the mushroom, producing convection currents – the miniature wind blows the spores from the gills and disperses them into the air. How’s that for self-generated wind power?

So what is this? Billions upon billions of spores that, using their own biology, take to the wind and spread far and wide to begin a whole new fungus. Incredible!