Coprinsis Atramentaria

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Coprinpsis Atramentaria, Vancouver Island, BC
Coprinpsis Atramentaria, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

Coprinpsis Atramentaria more commonly known as, (the ink cap, or the alcohol inky cap) is found throughout the northern hemisphere, look for it growing in fields, alongside trails and roadsides during the spring and fall.  It gets its name, ink cap, because shortly after it appears the gills start to decompose into a black ink-like goo.  In fact, it’s possible to make ink from these mushrooms.  The name ink cap is a term used for mushrooms that develop this black ooze,  nearly all of them belong to the genus Coprinopsis.  The shaggy Mane mushroom is the only other inky cap in our area.

Inky caps have a strange way of distributing their spores. They will digest their own cap. The gills are located on the undersurface of the cap and this is where you find the spores. As the mushroom ages, the cap and gills change into a black ink-like liquid. The spores are released in the inky liquid and get exposed to the air where they are carried to new areas.

Coprinpsis Atramentaria, Vancouver Island, BC
Coprinpsis Atramentaria, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

All of the mushrooms that produce a black liquid as they mature are referred to as inky caps. Inky Caps are collected for food, but they quickly turn to a black mess after gathering, you must eat them quickly before they turn to goo. Coprinopsis atramentaria. contains a chemical called coprine, which greatly increases the unpleasant effects of alcohol ingestion. You should never drink alcohol for at least 48 hours before and after eating these mushrooms.

Coprine is considered to be a mycotoxin. The combination of common inky caps and alcohol produces unpleasant symptoms that include a flushed skin along with a warm feeling in the face, rapid heartbeat, tingling sensation in the arms and legs, a strong metallic taste along with nausea and violent bouts of vomiting.

Although these mushrooms are edible and some even say delicious, I would suggest that you just enjoy how they look and leave them be.

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