Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Coprinellus micaceus - "Glistening Inky Cap"

Young Coprinellus micaceus specimens at base of maple tree
Mature Coprinellus micaceus cluster at base of maple tree

Spore print
Name: Coprinellus micaceus (formerly known as Coprinus micaceus)
Spore Color: dark brown or black (not jet black)
Location Found: around base of maple tree in yard
Special Characteristics:

  • after maturation or hours after harvesting, the gills will dissolve into an inky, black goo - a process known as autodigestion
  • usually grows in clusters
  • the caps of young specimens are covered with shiny "mica-like" cells, but usually are washed off/rubbed off with age

Edibility: Only edible before the autodigestion process begins. Boiling the mushrooms stops this process completely. They are recommended to use in omelettes and have a soft flavor that is easily overpowered.
Extra: Two very important things to note about this species is its situationally toxic lookalike, Coprinopsis atramentaria, and its mineral content. 
Coprinopsis atramentaria and Coprinellus micaceus both look similar, with the former having a more grey/tan-colored cap. The latter is much more tan, almost orange-tinged at times. It's also important to note that Coprinopsis atramentaria does not have the "mica-like" cells on its cap. Both are usually found in clusters and will turn into an inky black mess after maturation. They both have the exact same color spore print as well, which definitely complicates things further.
Though they can look similar, this mistake in identification can mean life or death in one certain situation: if the person who devours them has been drinking. While Coprinellus micaceus is safe to eat under any condition, Coprinopsis atramentaria contains a compound called coprine which in basic terms will give the eater an "instant hangover." While this may seem innocent enough, the symptoms can also include nausea, vomiting, heart palpitations, and most dangerously, heart attack and death. The symptoms are proportionate to the amount of alcohol consumed. If consumption is suspected, the affected shouldn't drink for three days.
Another important thing to note is its mineral content. Coprinellus micaceus is well known for its high potassium levels, making it quite healthy. Unfortunately it also has a tendency to absorb heavy metals like lead and cadmium, making the location from where you harvest a very important factor in judging its edibility. It's recommended not to consume any mushrooms from roadsides or industrial areas for this precise reason.

Panaeolus foenisecii - "Lawnmower's Mushroom"

Stages of growth of Panaeolus foenisecii

Gills and stems
Spore print
Name: Panaeolina foenisecii
Spore Color: dark brown
Location Found: all over lawn
Special Characteristics: 

  • hygrophanous - cap tissue changes from a dark brown to a light tan as it loses moisture
  • generally has an unpleasant, earthy smell
  • fragile and hollow stem/stipe

Edibility: Not recommended. Reported to be nutty and unpleasant.
Extra: Very often misidentified as its psychoactive relatives, Panaeolus cinctulus and Panaeolus olivaceus. This is a clear case for why spore prints are so important for identification of any mushroom... While the psychoactive relatives have jet black spores, foenisecii has dark brown spores. (For example, zoom into the spore print taken above. The leftmost spore print shows it best, that there is a brown hue to the spores. A jet black spore print would appear darker than the printed black.) 

Welcome to Connecticut Mushrooms!

Welcome to Connecticut Mushrooms.

This is a little project I've started to keep track of all the mushrooms I've found and either identified myself, or through help on Reddit.
If you need help identifying your Connecticut-found mushrooms, this blog may help you!

Please note that many mushrooms look awfully similar. While taking a spore print will help narrow your identification down, never eat a mushroom unless you are as close to a 100% identification as possible. An incorrect ID can mean harm, illness, or even death!

Get an ID double-checked easily at one of these sites:
/r/mycology - General mushroom identification and a great source of knowledge
/r/shroomid - A more recent subreddit solely for the identification of mushrooms, though strong leanings toward psychoactive IDs - A forum dedicated towards psychoactive mushrooms, but has many experienced mycologists

(Do not contact me about psychoactive mushrooms. I am not a member of Shroomery, nor have I ever found/used psychoactive mushrooms. They are illegal in Connecticut, use at your own risk/discretion.)