I’VE BEEN TAKING WALKS lately, relishing the extended fall I know can’t last, enjoying the press of sole to soil before it gets slippery out there—before it’s winter. A handsome stand of mushrooms has been catching my eye the last few weeks, and you know me: always curious. What are they? Turns out they are one of the most recognizable species of all: the shaggy mane, Coprinus comatus, one of the so-called inky caps. It’s the mushroom that just taught me a new word:
deliquesce [pronounced deliˈkwes]: to become liquid, during decomposition, or by absorbing moisture from the air.
See the lique in there, like liquor, or liquid? (See the lique in the photos above, and below, all drippy from the decomposing caps? The inky black lique?) It’s a form of self-digestion, this autodeliquescence of their gills—and in doing so they release their spores.
Professor and mycologist Tom Volk of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse wrote this piece about shaggy manes, and their relative ease of identification, and both Volk and the MykoWeb site, in its cookbook section, say the “ink” was used as just that in George Washington’s day, among other fun fact and lore.
Yes, the shaggy mane is edible, but since I am no mycologist, I don’t pick wild mushrooms for eating. For me, the thrill of the hunt is in the learning captured instead. You know, like with the Amanita fairy ring of late?