How to Make a Spore Print

Sure, you can make beautiful pieces of art from the spores of a mushroom, but you can also learn more about the mushroom in the process, too!

Watch this video to learn how to make a spore print and explore more resources below.

Do you know what a spore is?

A spore is a reproductive cell. Some plants make them but bacteria, algae, and fungi make them too. Spores are to mushrooms as seeds are to plants. Spores are how mushrooms reproduce and make more mushrooms. 

The first step to making a spore print is collecting a mushroom.

You can collect from:

  • Your yard
  • Your friend’s yard (with permission)
  • Local city park. 

You cannot collect from:

  • Someone else’s property without permission
  • State parks

Please follow the rules of where you collect and make sure it is okay to collect from the area you are visiting. 

Bring something to carry your mushroom with, like a basket or paper bag. You don’t want them to get squished in your pocket! Only pick the mushroom if there are a lot around because they are important for the environment

Do you know why mushrooms are important? 

Mushrooms are decomposers which means that they break down dead materials such as fallen leaves and logs to make soil and nutrients that help other living things survive. Remember to wash your hands after handling mushrooms!

Once back home:

  1. Gather jars or containers big enough to place over the mushrooms. Gather white and black paper. It is okay if you only have white paper, but some mushroom spores are white and therefore they won’t show up on white paper that well. 
  2. Take the stems off the mushrooms using your hands or scissors. 
  3. Place the mushrooms with the gills or pores facing down onto the paper. Then place the container over the mushroom to create an airtight seal.
  4. Leave the mushrooms covered anywhere from a couple hours to overnight based on how fresh the mushrooms are.
  5. After you let the mushrooms sit for a while, carefully pick up the containers and the mushrooms to reveal the spore print. Spore prints are fragile, so try to avoid touching it. 

Resources for identifying mushrooms

FULL 2/13 Member Meet-Up: Mushrooms of UC Santa Cruz

Two mushrooms with speckled brown patterns over white caps sprout up next to redwood sorrel.

Saturday, February 13 | 10 a.m. to noon
Member Exclusive | FULL

Member Meet-Ups are small group get-togethers for Museum Members where we learn from each other while exploring Santa Cruz’s diverse natural spaces. Not yet a Member? Join today!

‘Tis the season for mushrooms! The UC Santa Cruz campus is a treasure trove for fungiphiles, from the Campus Natural Reserve open spaces to the paths and roads that meander past buildings. For this Member Meet-Up, we will explore the Upper Campus Natural Reserve, share our discoveries, and work together to identify what we find. Your group guide will be our Public Programs Manager Marisa Gomez. Please review the following details prior to registering:


  • Wear a mask at all times
  • If you feel sick, stay home
  • Maintain at least six feet of distance from others
  • We are limiting the number of Members who can join us to 12 individuals


  • Location details and further instructions will be shared upon registration.
  • Member Meet-Ups are more focused on shared exploration and less on downloading a bunch of information. We promise friendly (masked) faces, an abundance of enthusiasm, resources to aid in identifications, and a fun morning jaunt through the redwoods.
  • As is the case with most mycologic, botanic, and geologic explorations, we will likely not travel very far due to constant distractions and pauses. That being said, be prepared to traipse through the woods on uneven terrain.
  • We will be helping each other identify the mushrooms that we find, so feel free to bring your favorite field guide, but no prior knowledge is required.
  • iNaturalist is a useful tool to aid in your identifications, as well as support an effort to document our area’s biodiversity. We invite you to consider downloading the app ahead of time and we will help you learn how to use it.

Become a Member

Laura Hecox Collections

historic photograph of Laura Hecox standing along the coast

Laura Hecox was an extraordinary woman and a brilliant amateur scientist who even had species named after her. Laura was the Santa Cruz lighthouse keeper from 1883 to 1916, and a renowned collector whose lighthouse museum was known far and wide. Contemporary descriptions in newspapers, correspondence, and other publications describe a stunning collection that occupied a room’s worth of cabinets on subjects from marine life to gems and minerals to ethnographic collections. Her collection of natural history specimens, artifacts, and curios was gifted to the people of Santa Cruz in 1904 and is the foundational collection of the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History.

Over the years, as Laura’s museum found homes in different community locations, portions of the collection were lost to time. Today, we strive to reconcile this loss with the honor of preserving what we still have, and the responsibility of making it available to our community. Laura’s tireless curiosity about the world around her continues to inspire our organization, even as we continue to learn more about her legacy.

Laura Hecox Scrapbook

While Laura meticulously cataloged her collection, she kept no known diary. Contemporary authors reference her scientific correspondence, yet none of these writings is known to have survived. Laura was, however, an avid scrapbooker. We are excited to provide complete access to the largest of Laura’s surviving scrapbooks. The scrapbook featured below is one of the few means by which we can learn more about Laura’s private life and the historical context in which she lived.

Her interests on the page were just as diverse as when collecting physical materials. In her scrapbook, beginning with an 1895 article on women lighthouse keepers, you will see articles on topics ranging from shell identification to women’s suffrage. We are always eager to learn more about Laura, as well as the natural and cultural history of late 19th century Santa Cruz.

We are proud to represent Laura’s legacy. However, the content reflected in these clippings is historical in nature. The views and opinions expressed within are not necessarily those of the museum itself. 

This project is indebted to the ongoing research legacy of Frank Perry, and is made possible by a partnership with the Santa Cruz Public Libraries.

To learn more about the Laura Hecox collection or set up a research appointment, email collections@santacruzmuseum.org

Laura Hecox Resources

A selection of items from the Laura Hecox Collection

First Peoples of Santa Cruz | Lesson Intro

Note about terminology

While we know it is common to use the term Ohlone to describe the Indigenous people of the Santa Cruz area, these lessons use Awaswas (the language once spoken in what is now Santa Cruz County), Uypi (the name of the tribe that lived in what is now the City of Santa Cruz), and Amah Mutsun (the name of the tribal band that represents the Santa Cruz region today).

If you have been using Ohlone with your class, you can share that Ohlone is the name of the culture that these tribes belong to (culture is the way you live your life). Further explore the tribal distinctions along the Central Coast with this map.

This video is the introduction to our First Peoples of Santa Cruz digital lessons. Download the lessons by filling out the form on this page.

12/14 Member Meet-Up: Tide Pool Walk


Monday, December 14, 2020 | 3 p.m.
Member Exclusive | Register

Museum Members are invited to join us for our first Member Meet-Up exploring the intertidal zone. Not yet a Member? Join today!

December’s New Moon brings with it excellent low tides, perfect for exploring the intertidal zone and its many fascinating creatures. Your guides for this excursion are Public Programs Manager Marisa Gomez and Visitor Services Manager Liz Broughton, who will also be collecting specimens for our intertidal touch pool exhibit. Please review the following details prior to registering:


  • Wear a mask at all times
  • If you feel sick, stay home
  • Maintain at least six feet of distance from others
  • We are limiting the number of Members who can join us to 12 individuals
  • We have chosen a weekday to limit the likelihood of large crowds 


  • Footwear is important! Make sure that your shoes have good traction for walking on slippery rocks, but they should also be shoes that you don’t mind getting wet.
  • Tidepooling comes with inherent risks, and it is with this in mind that we will cancel in the event of rain (like drizzle is okay). If we do decide to cancel we will notify you by email.

Become a Member

11/30-12/11 Member Exclusive: Holiday Shopping by Appointment

Banner advertising member only holiday shopping

November 30 – December 11
Mondays – Thursdays | 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
| 30 minute appointments*

Museum Members are invited to schedule exclusive 30 minute appointments to browse and shop in the Museum’s onsite Store. Get ahead in your holiday shopping and find the perfect gift for the naturalists in your life. The Museum store features a wide array of unique books, field guides, gifts, toys, and souvenirs for nature-enthusiasts of all ages. Every purchase in the Museum Store supports our mission, programs, and exhibits.

To Schedule: Contact liz@santacruzmuseum.org or call 831-420-6115x10

*Appointments limited to household groups, max of 5 people.

Looking to make another arrangement or would like gift suggestions? Just ask and we’ll be happy to help! You can also browse a selection of our merchandise in our Online Museum Store.

Not yet a Member? Join today for as little as $15/year.

11/29 Museum Store Sunday Sale

Banner advertising Museum Store Sunday

Sunday, November 29 | All Day
Shop Online
Coupon Code: MSS2020

Join us on November 29th for Museum Store Sunday, a worldwide event celebrating the unique and educational value that museum stores provide for their communities. Use the coupon code “MSS2020” to get 10% off in our Online Museum when you check out. This deal will only be available on Sunday, so mark your calendars now!

The store at the Santa Cruz Museum of natural history is your resource for books, field guides, and educational toys that encourage connections with nature. It is also the perfect place to pick up unique souvenirs and gift items from local Bay Area artisans. Discounts will also apply to the online selection of items from the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum.

On the Rocks: Foraged Liqueur

This recipe is part of our series On the Rocks: Exploring Science and Nature through Curated Cocktails.

During summer months and into early fall, California’s native berry-producing plants provide humans and wildlife alike with a delicious source of nutrients.

[Gathering fruit] required an intimate familiarity with nature and natural patterns. … Indians watched the other animals and linked their behaviors with the ripening of the fruit. Goldfinches, for example, would begin to whistle more frequently when it was time for the Foothills Yokuts to gather blackberries. Keeping a close watch on weather patterns was also important. For example, rosehips…tasted sweetest after the first light frost or cold nights of fall. The Karuk harvested California huckleberries after the first frost because that was when they were sweetest.

Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources by Kat Anderson, 2005

While there are many edible uses for our native berry varieties, a few species are particularly useful for making liqueurs to add a little local flavor to your cocktail game. Our favorites are California blackberry (Rubus ursinus), pink flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum), and blue elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea). Explore our foraging guide before you go out on the hunt and then try your hand at making your own liqueur with our recipe (below).

Foraging Ethics

Before you forage from natural landscapes, it’s important to Know Before You Go. Research the rules and regulations for the landscapes you hope to explore, study the species you may find, and be prepared to identify them accurately. Once you identify the species you would like to forage and you are confident that you are legally allowed to, consider how to do so in a way that does not cause harm. Only take what you will use and leave enough for wildlife.

Biologist of Potawatomi heritage Robin Wall Kimmerer provides an excellent blueprint for ethical foraging based on the indigenous principles of the Honorable Harvest:

Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.
Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
Never take the first. Never take the last. Take only what you need.
Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken. Share.
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings by Robin Wall Kimmerer, 2013

Species and Seasons

Here’s when you are likely to find ripe fruit for the three native species you can use in our liqueur recipe:

Blue elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea): July and August
Pink flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum): July and August
California blackberry (Rubus ursinus): April through September

Liqueur Recipe

elderberry liqueur


  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup ripe berries


  1. Shake together the water, vodka, and sugar to dissolve sugar.
  2. Gently mix together with the berries.
  3. Leave to infuse about 10-12 days until the berries have lost most of their color.
  4. Pour through a fine strainer and discard the berries.
  5. Pour into bottle of your choice to use for months to come!

Make a Macabre Martini with your liqueur!

10/17 Saturdays in the Soil

Photo of woman working in the garden in front of the Museum surrounded by native plants in bloom.

Saturday, October 17 | 10 a.m. to noon
Every third Saturday at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History

It’s time to get your hands dirty! We’re excited to relaunch Saturdays in the Soil, a monthly volunteer program in our native plant garden. Learn about local ecology, native plants, and sustainable gardening while coming together as a community (in a physically distanced manner!) to steward Tyrrell Park through the City’s Adopt-A-Park program.

Space is limited and RSVPs are required.

Email volunteer@santacruzmuseum.org to express interest.

What to Expect

  • This native plant garden requires general landscaping, occasional watering, weeding, and replanting.
  • All ages are welcome; children under 14 require adult supervision.
  • Limited to 12 volunteers to allow for physical distancing
  • Masks are required at all times
  • Tools are provided, but we encourage you to bring your own gloves if possible, as well as water and snacks