Shaggy Mane
(Coprinus comatus)
Shaggy Manes
Shaggy Mane sculpture

Shaggy Mane

sculpture, acrylic paints

This inky cap species has a white, cylindrical cap 1-1/4 to 2 inches wide and 1-5/8 to 6 inches high, covered with flat, white scales that make it look shaggy.

Shaggy Mane

Shaggy Mane

Note the scaly, egg-shaped cap and the ring toward the bottom of the stalk.

The crowded, white gills, free from the stalk (there’s a space in-between) also become black with ink as they mature and disintegrate.

Shaggy Mane Gills

Shaggy Mane, From Below

Note the blackening, inky gills that don't reach the stalk.

The spores are black.

The hollow, bulbous, white stalk is 2-3/8 to 8 inches long, 3/8 to 3/4 inches thick, with a ring about 2/3 way down.

Shaggy Mane, Split

Shaggy Mane, Split Lengthwise

Note the gills beginning to blacken from the bottom up.

One of the easiest mushrooms to recognize, it grows around the world. I even collected shaggy manes in a backyard just before embarking on a ship bound for Antarctica in Ushaia, the southernmost town in South America (the ship's cook, phobic of mushrooms, threw them out rather than preparing them).

This mushroom turns into black ink from the edge inward as it matures.

Shaggy Mane, Disintegrating

Shaggy Mane, Old

Note how the mushroom is liquifying into ink.

Look for the shaggy mane in wood chips, grass, or bare, hard-packed soil in the fall (also sometimes in the spring, plus through half the winter in the Southeast) throughout North America. It can appear in unbelievable quantities with hundreds of mushrooms arising and disintegrating over a period of weeks every year.

Shaggy Mane Troop

Shaggy Manes Without End

These mushrooms can come up in limitless numbers day after day every autumn.

The shaggy mane is the best of the inky caps, with a clear yet delicate flavor, and the texture of fish. Its high water content makes it unsuitable for sautéing, but it’s great steamed or in soups, stews, or sauces. If you season it with herbs traditionally used with fish, you can fool people into thinking they’re eating fish dishes. It cooks in about 10-20 minutes.

Use it the same day you find it, before it degrades into ink.

Don’t drink alcohol within hours of eating this mushroom or its similar relative, the alcohol inky cap (Coprinus atramentarius). The combination may sometimes cause temporary but frightening symptoms that vanish after a few hours.

For unknown reasons, this happened after I served the shaggy mane to a girlfriend who never drinks. I had no reaction to the same dish, but she developed a red flush, her gums felt like they were inflamed, she thought she was going to die, and started to shake (with rage toward me).

Within a few hours, most of the symptoms disappeared (except the rage), but there was a long-term, unexpected delayed reaction: the following Valentine's Day, she ran off with another guy!

Shaggy Mane Recipes