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new neighbor: the shaggy mane mushroom

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?

  1. narf7 says:

    Another wonderful and informative post about the shrooms of the world. I loved autumn and wandering around Serendipity Farm hunting for various members of the shroom family. Its amazing how many kinds there can be in any given place and how important the entire family is to the breaking down of organic matter. Without fungi we gardeners would have to give up our efforts. One day I am going to study mushrooms…might even do it at university. They really do deserve our interest and consideration :)

  2. Janeen says:

    Hi Margaret,

    I’m here in Somerset County in New Jersey where we were hit pretty hard by Sandy (too nice a name don’t you think)… Anyway I’ve noticed that a lot of evergreens, particularly spruce varieties, have been pulled right out of the ground and are all lying on their sides as if they’re all taking a well deserved nap. I thought I’d pick your brain as to what emergency care you think I could apply to our beloved downed spruce? My husband was able to upright and brace it using nearby trees as support. We were thinking that we should probably do something to protect its roots. Any suggestions would be immensely helpful. Thanks

  3. Meredith says:

    Thanks so much for your post. Another mystery solved. The last several years, I’ve found a large group of these growing between my house and the edge of the woods and wondered what they were. They’re so pristine and pretty when they first pop up and then turn icky – almost like they’re dissolving in the air.

  4. Lorraine Syratt says:

    I’ve been seeing clumps of fungi in the lawns the last couple of years — southern Ontario. They are big and poisonous looking (but aren’t they all). I’ve yet to look them up. Your images have perked my interest to do that. Love the second photo … all that oozing and drippage

    Pam Kress-Dunn used the word fudgescicle. When I first read that I thought she wrote fungscicle. More tea.

  5. Dahlink says:

    Loved the vocabulary lesson, Margaret. I think I learned the word “deliquesce” reading Edgar Allan Poe (think about bodies walled up or under the floorboards …)

  6. Marie says:

    A cluster of mushrooms (of a different variety) just popped up in my yard this week. I’ve never seen them in my Seattle garden. In the past two days, I’ve watched them melt and wondered what was going on. Thanks for clearing up the mystery!

  7. Beverly, zone 6 eastern PA says:

    I always grab the suddenly appearing mushrooms and put them into my compost bins to keep my dog from being interested in them. I think I read someplace long ago that dogs might be interested in mushrooms and not all are safe for canine consumption. So my compost bins are happily capturing the “deliquesence”.

  8. Valery says:

    I used to be like you, Margaret, and thought caution was the better part of valour where mushrooms are concerned. Shaggy Mane’s, however, are one of the easiest to identify and even their closest poisonous twin really looks nothing like them – and wouldn’t kill you if you suffered a case of mistaken identity. When a lovely clump sprang up in my horse paddock I snapped them off at ground level and tossed them in a little butter in a cast iron pan. I didn’t cook them all the way through, but cooled them and tossed them in the freezer. Last week I thawed them and made Wild Mushroom Risotto (with Shitake and Oyster mushrooms from the store). HEAVEN!

  9. mikeinportc says:

    Mmmmmm!!! :) Valery is correct. It’s one of the “Foolproof Four”. Nothing else like it. Just make sure it’s still all white , as in the last photo. Two cautions : As with all mushrooms, try just a little at first. Even good mushrooms might cause some gastric upset in some people. Also, no alcohol, three days before and after. The inkys have a substance that inhibits the breakdown of alcohol. ( Disappointing, but they’re still worth it. ;)

  10. Fiona Kirkpatrick says:

    Thank you for clearing up a mystery. This is the second year I’ve seen these after the leaves begin to fall. They grow on the West side of the apartment complex I live in. It’s very damp there and they grow inside and outside the fence. If I cooked them no one would eat them here as my family members are not adventurous. But thanks for clearing that up for me.

    1. margaret says:

      I’d never eat wild-collected mushrooms unless I had an expert with me to confirm their ID, Fiona, so I’m with your family. :) But they are fascinating, right? Thanks for saying hello.

  11. Tracy says:

    I like to think it is my gray German roots seeping . I have saved pictures of mushrooms all of my life. Then that little voice in my brain says maybe they are edible and Irish ;) I have been thinking about growing some! It is, should I say, a well aged consideration. I always imagine a crusty bread of cheese and mushrooms and onions one of my most loved things. I hope you grabbed a couple leaves on your path. I like to tuck them in my preserves book LOL.

  12. Liz says:

    Oh, Margaret! You are missing out if you don’t eat them. I have known and eaten them all my life. My mother was a farm girl and she knew mushrooms. She would bread them in egg and cracker crumbs and fry them in butter. YUM!
    You just have to be responsible and only take a few from each bunch. We even transplanted some a few times, to places that were easier to reach. Just take some of the black ones and bury them shallowly in a spot you know to be sandy and a bit damp. Not boggy, just damp. Wait for cool, soggy weather and you may get Shaggy Manes!

  13. Liz says:

    OOPS! I should mention that you need to pick them while they are still closed like the last picture. The black ones are NOT edible. Yuck.

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