Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Native Species Profile - Shaggy Mane

Fungus can be very difficult to identify.  There are many species; estimates range to more than one million species!  Many species can only be differentiated by looking at small obscure features.  Identification can be extremely important if you want to forage and eat wild mushrooms.  Many edible species have toxic look-alikes. If eating wild mushrooms, a incorrect identification could result in serious illness or even death.

That being said a few species are incredibly easy to identify.  One of the fits the category of easy to identify is the Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus).  This mushroom is one of several species lumped together as "inky caps".  These mushrooms have caps that decompose rapidly into an inky black fluid.  Also known as the Shaggy Inky Cap is the largest of this group at 3 to 8 inches tall with a cap up to 6 inches across.

Shaggy Mane - note how edge of cap has yet to separate from the stalk

Shaggy Mane mushrooms have white caps with shaggy white, brown, or black scales.  The edge of the cap is initially attached to the mushroom's stalk.  As the the mushroom grows, the edge of the mushroom detaches leaving a white ring around the stalk.  Up to this point, the cap is roughly cylindrical, but as it ages it takes on more of a bell shape.  When the mushroom reaches full maturity, the edges begin to decay.

Shaggy Mane - note bell-shaped cap with inky black edge

Shaggy Mane - note "inky" decayed cap

Shaggy Manes are saprophytic - meaning that they decompose dead organic matter.  This species is commonly found in lawns, along roadsides and other disturbed areas; it often grows on leaf litter, fine woody debris (such as wood chips), and occasionally on animal dung.  The species if found across North America and Europe and has been introduced in other locations around the world.

A Shaggy Mane mushroom emerges from leaf litter at the edge of a woods.

The Shaggy Mane is considered a "choice edible".  However, it is best collected and consumed before the cap turns inky.  In Mid-Michigan the Shaggy Mane has not toxic look-alikes so identification is relatively easy.  However, when consuming any foraged food (especially mushrooms), I recommend confirming identification with multiple sources before consuming.  Mistakes are simply not worth the risk.

Basic Information

Shaggy Mane
Coprinus comatus

Size:  3 - 8" tall; 2 - 6" across

Habitat:  lawns, roadsides, disturbed areas, compacted ground; decomposes organic matter including woody debris, leaf litter, and animal dung

Color:  white with white to brownish (or blackish) scales; decomposes to form an inky black liquid

Bloom Time:  late summer to fall

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