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If you're an intermediate mushroom grower looking to expand your knowledge and skills, cloning mushrooms is an excellent technique to add to your repertoire. This comprehensive guide will provide you with an in-depth understanding of the process of cloning mushrooms, including the reasons for cloning, materials needed, and step-by-step instructions for various methods.

Why Clone Mushrooms?

Cloning mushrooms offers several advantages, including:

1. Preserving Wild Strains

Cloning wild mushrooms allows you to cultivate and preserve unique strains found in nature, which can help maintain genetic diversity among cultivated mushrooms. This practice helps preserve the natural genetic resources of the fungi kingdom and can contribute to the discovery of new strains with exceptional qualities.

2. Capturing Valuable Traits

Cloning enables you to replicate mushrooms with desirable traits, such as faster growth, larger fruiting bodies, or enhanced medicinal properties, ensuring consistent results in your cultivation process. By cloning a mushroom that exhibits these desirable traits, you can create a stable strain that consistently produces the same high-quality results.

3. Reproducing Cultivated Mushrooms

Cloning also allows you to reproduce store-bought or homegrown mushrooms, saving you time and effort in starting from spores. This can be especially helpful for growing mushrooms with hard-to-find spores or those with a low germination rate.

4. Cost-Effectiveness

Cloning mushrooms can also save you money, as you can produce multiple generations of mushrooms from a single fruiting body. By cloning, you can reduce the need to purchase spores or spawn, lowering your overall cultivation costs.

Selecting the Best Mushrooms to Clone

When cloning mushrooms, it is crucial to choose specimens with the traits you wish to replicate. Look for the following characteristics when selecting a mushroom to clone:

Healthy and Mature

Choose a mushroom that is healthy and fully developed. Avoid specimens with signs of contamination or disease, as these issues may persist in the cloned mycelium.


Ideally, clone from fresh mushrooms. The fresher the specimen, the higher the chances of success. If you must clone from a dried mushroom, the process can be more challenging, but it is still possible with extra care and patience.

Other Desirable Traits

Select mushrooms that exhibit the traits you wish to cultivate, such as rapid growth, large fruiting bodies, or high potency (in the case of medicinal or gourmet mushrooms). Cloning from a high-quality specimen increases the likelihood of replicating those traits in future generations.

Essential Materials for Cloning Mushrooms

To clone mushrooms, you'll need the following supplies. I've put links to some reliable Amazon sellers where you can get them:

  • Agar plates: Pre-poured or homemade agar plates provide a nutrient-rich medium for mycelium growth.
  • A fresh, healthy mushroom fruiting body: Choose a specimen with desirable traits to clone.
  • A sterile workspace: Use a laminar flow hood or still air box (SAB) to minimize contamination.
  • Scalpel or X-Acto knife: A sterilizable, sharp instrument for tissue removal and transfer.
  • Sterilizing agents: Isopropyl alcohol, bleach solution, or another sanitizing agent for cleaning surfaces and tools.
  • Gloves: Disposable gloves for maintaining sterility during the cloning process.
  • Parafilm or masking tape: For sealing agar plates to minimize contamination.

How to Clone Mushrooms With Agar: Step-by-Step

Step 1. Prepare Your Workspace

Clean and sanitize your workspace, including your laminar flow hood or still air box. Remove any potential contaminants, wipe down surfaces with a sterilizing agent, and ensure all your supplies are within reach.

Step 2. Clean and Tear Open the Mushroom

Put on your disposable gloves and clean the exterior of the mushroom with a sterilizing agent, such as isopropyl alcohol or a bleach solution. Gently tear the mushroom open, preferably along the stem, to reveal the sterile tissue inside. Avoid cutting the mushroom open, as this can introduce contaminants from the surface into the interior tissue.

Step 3. Heat Sterilize Your Scalpel

Use a flame, such as a butane torch or alcohol lamp, to heat sterilize your scalpel or X-Acto knife. Allow the blade to cool briefly before proceeding to avoid damaging the mushroom tissue.

Step 4. Remove and Transfer Tissue

Carefully remove a small piece of internal mushroom tissue, about the size of a grain of rice, using the sterilized scalpel. You can either scrape it or cut a small piece. Transfer the tissue to an agar plate, placing it in the center of the medium. Some people place more than one piece of tissue in the plate for better chances of success, but it is optional. Close the agar plate immediately to minimize contamination risk.

A mushroom cut in half, two circles highlighting the cap and the stem

You can collect tissue from any part of the mushroom that isn't contaminated, but the easiest to work with is the fleshiest and innermost part of the mushroom. That would be the interior of the cap or the stem, depending on the species. Don't use gills tissue directly, it will be contaminated with spores.

Step 5. Seal, Incubate, and Clean

Seal the agar plate using parafilm or masking tape to prevent contaminants from entering. Label the plate with the date and mushroom strain, and store it in a dark, temperature-controlled environment (typically around 70-75°F, or 21-24°C). Monitor the plate for mycelium growth, which can take anywhere from several days to a few weeks, depending on the strain.

As the mycelium grows, keep an eye out for any signs of contamination, such as off-color growth or unpleasant odors. If only a small portion of the plate is contaminated, you can try to extract a clean sample of mycellium and transfer it into another new, clean plate. If you're lucky, all contaminants will be left behind and you'll have a clean culture.

Step 6. Store Your Mushroom Culture

Once the agar plate is fully colonized with mycelium, you can store it in the refrigerator for several months. This allows you to have a continuous supply of mycelium for future cultivation projects.

How to Clone Mushrooms Without Agar

While agar is the most common medium for cloning mushrooms, there are several alternative methods you can use:

1. Cloning Mushrooms Directly Into Jars of Sterilized Grain

This method involves transferring a small piece of internal mushroom tissue directly into a jar of sterilized grain, such as rye berries or wild bird seed. The mycelium will then grow throughout the grain, which can be used as spawn for future cultivation projects.

2. Cloning Mushrooms Using Sterilized Cardboard

In this method, you place a small piece of internal mushroom tissue between two layers of sterilized, damp cardboard. The mycelium will grow through the cardboard, creating a suitable substrate for future cultivation.

3. The Stem Butt Method of Cloning

This technique involves cutting off the bottom of a mushroom stem and placing it on a sterilized growth medium, such as grain or agar. The mycelium will grow from the stem butt, colonizing the medium and creating a new culture.

4. Cloning Dried Mushrooms

Cloning dried mushrooms is more challenging than cloning fresh specimens, but it is still possible. Rehydrate the dried mushroom in sterile water for several hours, then follow the same steps as you would for cloning fresh mushrooms, being extra cautious to avoid contamination.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cloning Mushrooms

Can You Clone Mushrooms Forever?

No, you can't clone mushrooms forever. While cloning mushrooms can produce numerous generations, the process cannot be sustained indefinitely. Over time, genetic drift and senescence can lead to the weakening of the strain or loss of desirable traits. To maintain the vitality of your mushroom cultures, periodically introduce fresh genetic material from new specimens or spore prints.

Can You Clone Dried Mushrooms?

You can clone dried mushrooms by hydrating them first in sterilized water. While cloning from dried mushrooms is not as reliable -the drying process often kills the tissue completely-, it is possible. After hydrating them, follow the steps above as you'd do with a fresh mushroom.

Can You Grow Mushrooms From Cuttings?

While it is not possible to grow mushrooms directly from cuttings like some plants, cloning is a similar process that allows you to reproduce mushrooms from a small piece of tissue.

Do Mushrooms Clone Themselves?

Mushrooms do not naturally clone themselves, but their mycelium can spread and produce new fruiting bodies, effectively replicating the parent mushroom.

How Do You Collect Mycelium?

Mycelium can be collected from agar plates, grain spawn, or other growth media by transferring a small sample to a new sterile medium, such as agar or sterilized grain. This process, called "expanding the culture," allows you to propagate mycelium for future cultivation projects.

Can You Clone a Clone Mushroom?

Yes, you can clone a mushroom that was itself a clone. However, it's essential to be aware that with each subsequent generation, the risk of genetic drift and potential loss of desirable traits may increase. To maintain the desired characteristics, periodically reintroduce fresh genetic material from new specimens or spore prints.