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September 30, 2014

The featured mushroom for February 2014 was...

Coprinus atramentarius by david fischer

Coprinus atramentarius: the Alcohol Inky Cap

The alcohol inky cap like its relative the mica cap, Coprinus micaceus, is often found in urban and suburban settings. The cap of the Coprinus atramentarius gradually blackens and turns to a black liquid as the mushroom matures. The liquification of the cap progresses from the margin; toward the apex. Spores are dropped from the zone immediately above of the liquefying zone. The name, alcohol inky, and the British name, tippler’s bane, result from the fact that though the mushroom is edible, it has a chemical that disables an enzyme that humans use to break down alcohol. Consuming alcohol within a day or two after eating this mushroom can result in unpleasant symptoms including nausea. The chemical that produces this result is very close chemically to the commercial product, antabuse, which is used to cure alcoholics.

coprinus atramentarius josef hlasekThe grayish brown cap ranges from 1 to 3 inches high. The cap starts out round or oval sometimes with lobes. As the mushroom matures the cap becomes conical to bell-shaped or even convex in old age as the outer edge liquefies. The crowded, white gills are free becoming grayish then black as they liquefy. The whitish, hollow stem is 3 to 6½ inches tall with a fibrous white partial veil that leaves a ring zone near the base of the stem. The spore print is black. Alcohol inky caps tend to grow in clusters near stumps or buried wood and occasionally in grass. Though more common cultivated areas, lawns, gardens, roadsides, they do occasionally grow in woods.

The mushroom is a fairly good edible but the problems with the consumption of alcohol rule this mushroom out for many of us. In the past the black liquid was collected mixed with water and cloves and used as ink.

coprinopsis atrametariaDNA analysis has broken up the old genus Coprinus and this mushroom is now called Coprinopsis atramentaria. I use the old name from guidebooks that identify mushrooms using macroscopic characteristics as most of our club members identify mushrooms that way.