Coprinus comatus

Coprinus comatus
Coprinus comatus
C. comatus young
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Fungi
Phylum: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Agaricales
Family: Agaricaceae
Genus: Coprinus
Species: C. comatus
Binomial name
Coprinus comatus
(O.F. Müll.) Pers.
Coprinus comatus
View the Mycomorphbox template that generates the following list
Mycological characteristics
gills on hymenium
cap is conical
hymenium is free
stipe has a ring
spore print is black
ecology is saprotrophic
edibility: choice

Coprinus comatus, the shaggy ink cap, lawyer's wig, or shaggy mane, is a common fungus often seen growing on lawns, along gravel roads and waste areas. The young fruit bodies first appear as white cylinders emerging from the ground, then the bell-shaped caps open out. The caps are white, and covered with scales—this is the origin of the common names of the fungus. The gills beneath the cap are white, then pink, then turn black and secrete a black liquid filled with spores (hence the “ink cap” name). This mushroom is unusual because it will turn black and dissolve itself in a matter of hours after being picked or depositing spores.

When young it is an excellent edible mushroom provided that it is eaten soon after being collected (it keeps very badly because of the autodigestion of its gills and cap). If long-term storage is desired, sauteing or simmering until done will allow the mushrooms to be stored in a refrigerator for several days or frozen. Processing must be done whether for eating or storage within four to six hours of harvest to prevent undesirable changes to the mushroom. The species is cultivated in China as food.



The shaggy ink cap was first described by Danish naturalist Otto Friedrich Müller in 1780 as Agaricus comatus, before being given its current binomial name in 1797 by Christiaan Hendrik Persoon. Its specific name derives from coma, or “hair”, hence comatus, “hairy” or “shaggy”.[1]

Coprinus comatus is the type species for the genus Coprinus. This genus was formerly considered to be a large one with well over 100 species. However, molecular analysis of DNA sequences showed that the former species belonged in two families, the Agaricaceae and the Psathyrellaceae.[2] Coprinus comatus is the best known of the true Coprinus. Adding to its unusual features, a recent study has found the shaggy ink cap kills nematode species Panagrellus redivivus and Meloidogyne arenaria.[3] See also nematophagous fungus.

Other common names include lawyer's wig,[1] and shaggy mane.


The shaggy ink cap is easily recognizable from its almost cylindical cap which initially covers most of its stem. The cap is mostly white with shaggy scales, which are more pale brown at the apex. The free gills change rapidly from white to pink, then to black. It is deliquescent. The stipe has a loose ring and measures 10–37 centimetres (3.9–15 in) high by 1–2.5 centimetres (0.39–0.98 in) diameter. Microscopically it lacks pleurocystidia. The spore print is black-brown and the spores measure 10–13 × 6.5–8 µm. The flesh is white and the taste mild.[4]

Distribution and habitat

Somme Ink Caps of different age

It grows in groups in places which are often unexpected, such as green areas in towns. It occurs widely in grasslands and meadows in Europe and North America. It appears to have been introduced to Australia, New Zealand and Iceland. In Australia the species is sufficiently common to have been featured on a postage stamp issued by Australia Post in 1981.[5]

Ink Caps


The left image below shows a young mushroom. The second image shows the same specimen 24 hours later. "Ink" can be seen dripping from the gills.


The young mushrooms, before the gills start to turn black, are edible. It can sometimes be used in mushroom soup with parasol mushroom.

The agent responsible for unpleasant symptoms when consumed with alcohol, coprine, which is found in Coprinopsis atramentaria, has not been isolated from C. comatus.[6]


Much of the above article was translated from the French page and Dutch pages.

  1. ^ a b Nilson S & Persson O (1977). Fungi of Northern Europe 1: Larger Fungi (Excluding Gill-Fungi). Penguin. p. 72. ISBN 0-14-063005-8. 
  2. ^ Redhead SA, Vilgalys R, Moncalvo J-M,Johnson J & Hopple, JS Jr; Vilgalys, Rytas; Moncalvo, Jean-Marc; Johnson, Jacqui; Hopple, John S (2001). "Coprinus Pers. and the disposition of Coprinus species sensu lato.". Taxon 50 (1): 203–41. doi:10.2307/1224525. 
  3. ^ Hong Luo, Minghe Mo, Xiaowei Huang, Xuan Li & Keqin Zhang. (2004) Coprinus comatus: A basidiomycete fungus forms novel spiny structures and infects nematode Mycologia 96: 1218-1224. online
  4. ^ Phillips, Roger (2006). Mushrooms. Pan MacMillan. p. 257. ISBN 0-330-44237-6. 
  5. ^ Coprinus comatus image
  6. ^ Benjamin, Denis R. (1995). Mushrooms: poisons and panaceas — a handbook for naturalists, mycologists and physicians. New York: WH Freeman and Company. p. 285. ISBN 0-7167-2600-9. 
  • Pierre Montarnal: Le petit guide: Champignons (Genève, 1964; Paris-Hachette, 1969).
  • Régis Courtecuisse, Bernard Duhem: Guide des champignons de France et d'Europe (Delachaux & Niestlé, 1994-2000). ISBN 978-2-603-00953-6
  • Roger Phillips: Mushrooms and other fungi of Great Britain and Europe (Pan Books Ltd. 1981 / Book Club Associates 1981) - for the English names.

External links

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