Inky cap

I made a quick visit to Shakerag Hollow this morning and found the biggest Inky Cap mushroom that I’ve ever seen (genus Coprinus, probably — but see here for identification complications). It stood about a foot tall, growing right next to the trail.

Inky Caps are named for the dripping black goo that edges their caps. Like other mushrooms, spores are produced under the cap. Unlike other mushrooms, the cap liquifies after the spores have been released. Spores mature first on the outer edge of the cap, so the cap shrinks as the spores are released. This keeps the edge of the cap adjacent to the mature spores, letting them catch the best air currents. Liquefaction through self-digestion is somewhat horrifying but also strangely beautiful process (Salvador Dali, anyone?).

18 thoughts on “Inky cap

  1. AP

    WOW! Never seen one of these before – thanks so much for sharing. Amazing. If Gargamel were a Smurf, I think he’d live in one of these.

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  8. Wanderess

    Hello Mr. Haskell,
    I don’t know if you still monitor this blog, but I came across your photo and was inspired to write a poem about it. Upon showing my mycology friends, they were wondering about the substrate. Was this growing from dung by chance? Maybe horses use the trail? Or was it growing terrestrially?

    Thank you!

    1. David George Haskell Post author

      As far as I recall, they were growing on leaf litter. Horses are barred from this trail and v rarely seen. Of course, there are plenty of smaller mammals around esp chipmunks and squirrrels.

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