Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Shaggy Mane mushrooms, COPRINUS COMATUS

from the December 26, 2010 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

The Yucatán is no Mecca for mushroom pickers. For one thing the long, severe dry season is hard on moisture-loving mushrooms. For another, the soil here is too thin and low in organic matter. Still, from time to time mushrooms do pop up, and then there's yet another frustration for the mushroom picker: How do you identify them? There are no field guides here and not many mycological studies have been made in the area. So, I was tickled the other day when I stepped from the hut and saw what you can see at the top of this page.

Not only were they robust young mushroom caps soon to expand into even more photogenic parasols, but I knew what they were, more or less. From their large size (already about 3.5 inches tall, or 9 cm, despite their early stage of development), white size, conical cap shape and shaggy cap covering, these were just like emerging Shaggy Manes, COPRINUS COMATUS, I've so often seen in North America and Europe. It's a worldwide species.

By mid afternoon of that same day, already the mushrooms had grown to about six inches (15cm) and the caps had prettily expanded, as shown below:

Shaggy Mane mushrooms, COPRINUS COMATUS, caps open

Shaggy Manes are recognized as deliciously edible mushrooms. Mycologist Clyde Christensen once wrote a popular book for mushroomers in which he introduced the "Foolproof Four" -- four very easy to identify, consistently safe and tasty mushrooms species, and the Shaggy Mane was one of those species.

However, I didn't eat these next to my hut. For one thing, I'm still a bit skittish after getting poisoned by the Green-spored Parasol Mushroom back in Kentucky in 2006. You can read all about that incident at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/x/green-sp.htm.

Also, the taxonomy of the genus Coprinus is in a royal mess. There are look-alike species, and who knows what lives in the Yucatán? You might find it illuminating to read how recent genetic sequencing has really screwed up the taxonomy of a once-simple and easy-to-identify group of common mushroom species at http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/may2004.html.

In mushroom identification no field mark is more important than that of spore color. I already knew that Coprinus mushrooms produce black spores, but I thought I'd make a spore print to show you just for fun. You can see what came into being when I placed the cap of a newly opened one onto a sheet of paper below:

spore print of Shaggy Mane mushroom, COPRINUS COMATUS

The "black sun" at the left is the cap itself flipped onto it top. The dark, diffuse "clouds" are untold numbers of spores that dropped from the cap's radiating gills during no more than 15 minutes. The wet-looking black splotches result from the cap's margins "melting." Members of the genus Coprinus often are known as inky-caps because soon after their caps open they begin melting, or "deliquescing," black spores mingling with the juice, forming "ink."

An arresting picture shows the stem attaching to the cap's inside center, surrounded by radiating gills below:

Shaggy Mane mushroom, COPRINUS COMATUS, where stalk meets gills

In some mushroom groups gills extend down the stem, in others there's a notch between the gills and continuing ridges on the stem, but here there's a conspicuous empty zone, like a moat around the stem.

On the Internet I read that researchers in China have found that the Shaggy Mane is one of several fungi (another being the common, well known and highly edible oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus) whose hyphae exude compounds that can stupefy and kill soil nematodes, which the fungi then digest with invasive hyphal threads. The Shaggy Maine is a carnivore!

from the July 3, 2016 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán MÉXICO

In midweek a good rain left an ephemeral pool of ankle deep water beneath the big Chinese Banyan in front of the Hacienda's main building. Two days later several five-inch-tall (13cm) clusters of very distinctive looking mushrooms pushed up through the flat, unvegetated dirt beneath the banyan, as shown below:

Shaggy Mane mushroom, COPRINUS COMATUS

Here at the Hacienda we've seen mushrooms similar to these, as shown on our Shaggy Mane Mushroom page at http://www.backyardnature.net/yucatan/shaggy.htm

However, the caps of the ones seen this week are much shaggier than those on our Shaggy Mane page. Below, a close-up shows just how very shaggy this week's mushrooms were:

Shaggy Mane mushroom, COPRINUS COMATUS, close-up of cap

Surely this was a different species, so I took more pictures for "doing the botany." A better look at the stem bases is shown below:

Shaggy Mane mushroom cluster, COPRINUS COMATUS, close-up of cap

A shot showing that the cap's gills do not attach to the stem, and that the stem's top swells and spreads before the gills arise, appears below:

Shaggy Mane mushroom, COPRINUS COMATUS, gills and stem

A few hours after a cap was placed on a red jar top, the cap collapsed and began liquefying, exactly as the regular Shaggy Mane does, as shown below:

Shaggy Mane mushroom, COPRINUS COMATUS, inky cap and spores

In that picture you can also see that before it collapsed it deposited a coating of black spores.

All these features coincide with those of the Shaggy Mane, except that this one is so outrageously shaggy. However, on the Internet I found other pictures of this species, Coprinus comatus, nearly as shaggy, though most are like the smoother ones photographed earlier. I read that the caps get shaggier as they mature during the day, then liquefy at day's end, but even our youngest mushrooms were as shaggy as the older ones. Apparently there can be variation in the species, which isn't surprising.

"The Shaggy Mane mushroom ... is a very common, visually distinctive mushroom with a really nice flavor," writes David Fischer at his AmericanMushrooms.Com website. Because of my doubt about its ID, and my famous poisoning in 2009 (see http://www.backyardnature.net/n/x/green-sp.htm ), I didn't try eating this one, and by the next day when I knew who it was, it was gone.