Welcome to Mushroom Monday for April 30, 2018
With the recent appearance of a few species of ink cap mushrooms, we can expect to see them through the summer and fall. The big majority of ink cap mushrooms (called the coprinoid fungi) share the unusual feature of having gills that digest themselves at maturity producing a liquid mass of black spores. Some of the liquid drips to the ground and infiltrates the soil and some dries on the mushroom cap and is wind dispersed. If insects land on the liquid mass, they can serve as dispersal agents. The enzymatic dissolution of tissues is called deliquescence. It begins at the cap margin and progresses toward the stem.
All coprinoid fungi are saprophytic and occur in many habitats such as on dung in pastures, in lawns, forests, and a wide range of disturbed habitats. The name coprinoid comes from the Greek and means “dung” which is reference to this common substrate for their growth.
Several species are large enough to be eaten. They should be eaten only if they are young and pure white, before deliquescence begins. One is toxic when consumed with alcohol.
Coprinus comatus (Shaggy Mane)
Shaggy mane is one of the easiest wild mushrooms to identify and a great beginning species if you are tempted to try eating your first wild mushroom. Most people say they are delicious. Cut them lengthwise to be sure they are young and pure white. They have a columnar cap covered with shaggy scales. Look for them in summer and fall along road sides, in grassy areas, and in garden wood chips. They are famous for bursting up through asphalt and damaging tennis courts.
Coprinopsis atramantaria (Inky Cap)
This species is recognized by its smooth, silky, pale brown cap. It commonly grows in clusters on rotting tree stumps or on buried wood. Big caution about eating this: It contains a toxin (Coprine) that produces an Antabuse effect with alcohol. It causes a racing heart, elevated blood pressure, facial flushing and extreme nausea and vomiting when consumed with alcohol. You should abstain from alcohol several days before and after consuming it. With that in mind, many people do eat and enjoy it.
Coprinellus micaceus (Mica Cap)
The scientific name and common name refer to the sparkling, mica-like scales on the young caps. These soon wash off leaving the cap smooth. They grow in large clusters near stumps and on buried wood. It is rated as edible with good flavour but soft in texture.
Coprinellus disseminates (Fairy Bonnet)
This is a widely-distributed species and is an exception to the coprinoid rule in that the gills do not liquefy at maturity. It grows in large troops on wood. It has a bell-shaped, striate (pleated) cap.
Coprinopsis radiata (Miniature Woolly Inky Cap)
This is a tiny, delicate, ink cap that is found on horse manure in wet weather. They pop up in the early morning, dissolve within hours and re-appear the next morning. The cap is bullet-shaped, dark gray and covered with white hair-like scales.
This delicate little parasol mushroom with pleated caps grows in grassy areas. The caps are so thin that they are translucent. The gills are black, but this is another species of coprinoid that does not liquefy at maturity.
The ink is permanent on paper and is used in art work.