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Coprinus comatus

Coprinus comatus

C. comatus mature
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Fungi
Subkingdom: Dikarya
Phylum: Basidiomycota
Subphylum: Agaricomycotina
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Agaricales
Family: Agaricaceae
Genus: Coprinus
Species: C. comatus
Binomial name
Coprinus comatus
(O.F. Müll.) Persoon

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 fruiting 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). Its specific name derives from coma, or “hair”, hence comatus, “haired” or “shaggy”.

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). The species is cultivated in China as food.

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 2 families, the Agaricaceae and the Psathyrellaceae. 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.[1] See nematophagous fungus.



  The shaggy ink cap is easily recognizable from its cap which initially covers almost the whole of its stem. Entirely white to begin with, the cap becomes shaggy as separating scales develop. The gills change rapidly from white to pink, then to black. It is deliquescent. Microscopically it lacks pleurocystidia.

Distribution and habitat

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 and New Zealand.

Coprinus comatus
mycological characteristics:
gills on hymenium

cap is conical


hymenium is free


stipe has a ring


spore print is black


ecology is saprophytic


edibility: choice


The left image below shows a young mushroom. The right 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.


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

  1. ^ 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
  • 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.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Coprinus_comatus". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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