Common name: Shaggy Mane, Inky Cap, Lawyer’s Wig

Description: Shaggy manes have a rounded, slender dry white cap covered with flat to somewhat elevated reddish brown scales. Upon emerging from the soil, the white cap quickly turns a moist inky black from liquefying gills. At this stage the mushroom is not edible, although not poisonous.

The spores of Coprinus species are black, with spores that are 9-13 x 7-9 microns, elliptical, smooth, with a central to slightly eccentric pore.

The white, hollow stalk is brittle. The cap is 1-1/4 – 2” (3-5 cm) wide; 1-5/8-6” high. The stalk is 2-3/8-8” (6-20cm) long; 3/8-3/4: (1-2cm) thick. A partial veil leaves a ring on the lower part of the stalk.

Ecology: Shaggy manes are saprotrophic, found throughout North America in grass, wood chips and hard packed soil. Frequently they are found in lawns and in grassy areas between woods and roads. They often appear in various sized groupings. The mushrooms are not connected to one another. It fruits in spring and fall.

Poisonous look-alikes: There are no poisonous look alikes. However, another closely related species should not be collected. This is Coprinus quadrifidus (Scaly Inky Cap). The scaly inky cap has a whitish-grey cap covered in light brown or buff, flaky patches. The stalk is hollow, white, and scaly with brown runners at the base. These are frequently found in debris and stumps remaining from rotting hardwoods. These are likely to grow closely together in clusters. Many people who eat this mushroom suffer gastric discomforts. To many, it has an unpleasant taste.

Harvest: Shaggy Manes are best harvested by cutting the stalk just below the cap.

Often, the inky stage is noted and then a closer inspection of the area reveals fresh mushrooms just beginning to emerge. These fresh mushrooms are at an ideal size for harvest.

Liquifying of the gills occurs very quickly after emergence. It is best to collect this mushroom before the cap has completely emerged from the soil. It must then be processed within a very short time (approximately 30 minutes maximum). It can be cooked immediately, pickled or can be submerged in cold water for up to several days to inhibit the liquification.

Possible allergic reactions: There are no reported problems with Coprinus comatus. Some of its close relatives, which have completely different appearances, can cause physical disturbances when alcohol is consumed around the time of eating. For example, Coprinopsis atramentaria, commonly known as “tippler’s bane” (pictured below), has a smooth cap without scales and can be differentiated on this basis. C. atramentaria causes an allergic reaction when alcohol is consumed within a few hours of consuming this mushroom. It has an effect similar to disulfurim, better known as antabuse, manifesting as a reddening of the face, nausea, agitation, palpitations and tingling in limbs. This reaction will normally subside within a few hours.

Take the same precautions that are recommended for all edible, wild mushrooms: cook them well, eat only a small amount the first time you try them. Some people have had allergic reactions to the store-brought white button mushroom, so precaution is always recommended when trying any mushroom for the first time. Do not try more than one new species of mushroom at the same time.

Storage: As mentioned previously, quick processing of this mushroom for storage is essential. One method is to submerge the mushrooms in cold water to delay onset of liquification for up to several days. They may then be drained and cooked. Another method is to lightly sauté the mushrooms before the liquification process is apparent. This must be done before any discoloration shows at the lower edge of the cap. If there is a small amount of discoloration, that area can be cut off and the balance cooked. After cooking, the mushrooms can be stored by freezing in air tight containers.

Stalks may be cooked or discarded. With cooking, they retain a somewhat brittle and possibly tough consistency in contrast to the mushrooms which will be tender and almost soft. 


Coprinus comatus Coprinus comatus Coprinopsis atramentaria


Kuo, Michael 

Lincoff, Gary, National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms, Chanticleer Press, 1981, pp. 597-98


Roger’s Mushrooms 

Smith, Alexander H. and Nancy Smith Weber, The Mushroom Hunter’s Field Guide, The University of Michigan Press, 1980, pp. 219-222.

Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month for May 2004: