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Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society

Focusing on native plants and conservation in North Idaho

The "Shaggy Mane" Mushroom
Coprinus comatus

 Photo Story by Wendy Aeschliman

Fall, 2004...
What a time for fall mushrooms!

   In the fall of 2004, in one week about six inches of rain fell in Sandpoint, Idaho.  Springing up from mostly compacted soil were oftentimes groves of the fascinating and edible "Shaggy Mane" mushroom, also called the "Lawyer's Wig". 

   If one wants to eat these, it is best to use only the young and white parts.  (You'll find out why later.)  These you see above are ideal eating size!  Sauteed in butter, these mushrooms are delicious!




.......hours later, these have become tall, close to a foot tall!  We'll call these Shaggy Manes on the left the young ones, and the ones on the right "middle-aged".  Note the black edges on the rims of the conical caps.  Now look at the top of this photo, where there is a clue as to what's in store for these mushrooms as they age.... 


 Here is the Shaggy Mane mushroom a few hours older, tall and dripping.

 Collectively, members of the genus Coprinus  have been called "Inky Caps". it is actually doing what it is named for: self-digesting into black ink!  It actually takes moisture from the environment, and starts digesting itself, dripping and self-destructing!!  I found this quite amazing to see!!  It continues over hours until the entire cap is gone, leaving a puddle of black ink below where the mushroom used to be, and later then a stem drying up....

Another word (I remember this word from my past), is that the mushroom undergoes deliquescence, actually autodeliquescence of its gills.
From Webster's:
Main Entry: del·i·ques·cent
Pronunciation: -'kwe-s&nt
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin deliquescent-, deliquescens, present participle of deliquescere
1 : tending to melt or dissolve; especially : tending to undergo gradual dissolution and liquefaction by the attraction and absorption of moisture from the air

Because of this phenomenon, if one wants to eat them, one must immediately cook them in the young stage, otherwise the gills will turn grey/black and leave behind inky blobs in the sink or in the pan. (I found that out by personal experience.)  The black ink is not too appetizing!   To give yourself a little time you can also store them under water in the refrigerator.  

Anyone need any ink for your ink wells?  (This reminds me of grade school!!)



Well.......... after all the dripping and disintegration, there is little left but a few standing stems, many downed dried up stems, and lots of ink!  The ink stains the grasses in the field, obvious from even far away.


And, below, even more Shaggy Manes sprouting in the graveled driveway!  YUM!    


  That's all, folks.........