The genus Copriiuis may be readily recognised from the fact that the spore-bearing plates dissolve to an inky fluid soon after the spores mature.

An amateur mushroom hunter may feel perfectly safe in collecting ink caps for his table, as all the species large enough to tempt the collector are not only edible, but are generally conceded to be of the best.

Their general appearance is such that even the most untrained observer should not mistake them for species of other groups.

The oblong or nearly cylindrical cap, which does not expand until ready to dissolve in inky drops, is too striking a characteristic to permit of any one making a mistake in identifying it as a specimen safe to eat.

These plants literally grow up in a night and perish in a day, as their period of growth is spent underground, and it is not until all the parts of the fruiting portions of the plants are fully developed that they push themselves above ground. Then they push and crowd from the ground in such numbers, where but a few hours before no evidence of them was seen, that each one is compressed from its cylindrical form to that of a many-sided prism, so that there would be no chance for the expansion of' those within the group if it were not that those on the outer rim so rapidly expand and dissolve away.

Specimens to be eaten should be gathered in the young stage and should be cooked promptly; for though not poisonous in the black stage, they are surely not attractive.

Shelley must have had the ink caps in mind when he wrote of the fungi in the garden of "The Sensitive Plant":

" Their mass rotted off them flake by flake, Till the thick stalk stuck like a murderer's stake, Where rags of loose flesh yet tremble on high, Infecting the winds that wander by,"

Co-pri-nus Shaggy-mane; Horsetail; Maned Agaric< (Edible)

Coprinus Comatus (See Pages i , v, viii)

Cap or Pileus - Cylindrical or barrel-shaped; becoming bell-shaped or expanded, with split margins, when old. Colour of the buttons or young plants dark; but that of the older forms white, flecked with dark patches or scales. Surface shaggy. I 1/2-3 inches long before expansion.

Stem or Stipe - White, smooth, hollow. 3-4 inches long.

Ring or Annulus-Slightly adherent, or movable in the young plant; later lying on the ground at the base of the stem, or wholly disappearing.

Gills or Lamella - Crowded. White, then tinged with pink ; finally black, and dripping an inky fluid.

Spores - Black, elliptical.

Flesh - Fragile, tender, digestible, with nutty flavour.

Time - Autumn.

Habitat - Loose, rich earth. By roadsides, in pastures, and in dumping grounds.

If one study the specimens of the shaggy-mane from the time it pushes its little brown head above the ground until, as a tall black umbrella, it melts away into inky blackness, he will find much that is beautiful and interesting.

A little brown button may be cut with a sharp knife throughout its length to show the unexpanded gills lying close to the part which is afterwards to become the stem.

An older button cut in the same way will show the gills separated from the stem and the outer cover of the cap at the lower end of the gills joined to the stem. A still older specimen will show the connection of the outer cover broken loose from the base of the gill and the torn part still remaining on the stem as a temporary collar.

The outer layer of brown threads which covers the button will be found to break as the threads within expand, and to remain in the older specimens on the surface as patches of brown threads. Underlying these are broken white threads which in a younger stage, unbroken, formed a white cover under the brown. It is these loosely hanging threads which give the shaggy appearance to the cap of the mature plants and which have suggested the names of shaggy-mane, horsetails, and comatus {comatus, in Latin, meaning hairy).

Inky Coprinus (Edible)

Inky Coprinus (Edible).

(Coprinus atrameniartus, var. silvestris, Peck. Nat. size) See page 91

Black-spored Series

Inky Coprinus (Edible)

Coprinus atramentarius

Cap or Pileus - Cylindrical at first, broadening by degrees until it is cone-shaped. Colour greyish or greyish brown, with suggestions of lead colour. Smooth or with a few obscure scales on the disk. Often suffused with bloom. The margin sometimes notched or lobed. Deliquescing. 1-3 inches in diameter.

Stem or Stipe - Slender, smooth, whitish, hollow.

Ring or Annalus - A slight vestige of one may be seen to extend around the stem near the base as an irregular zigzag elevated line of threads.

Gills or Lamella - Crowded. At first whitish and flocculose on the edges, then black, moist, dropping away in inky fluid.

Spores - Black, elliptical.

Flesh - White, quickly deliquescing.

Time - Autumn.

Habitat - Rich soil, waste places, woods.

The form growing in the woods is much more beautiful and is known as C. atramentarius, var silvestris. See plate facing page 89.

Glistening Coprinus (Edible)

Coprinus micaceus

Cap or Pileus - Ovate, then bell-shaped. Striations radiating from near the centre of the disk to the margin. Glistening mica-like scales cover undisturbed young specimens. 1-2 inches broad. Colour tan, light buff, or tawny yellow.

Stem or Stipe - Slender, smooth, fragile, white, hollow. 1-3 inches long.

Ring or Annulus - Rarely seen except in very young specimens.

Gills or Lamella - Not as crowded as in the ink cap and shaggy-mane. Colour white, then tinged with pinkish or purplish brown, finally black.

Spores - Brown, elliptical.

Flesh - A nutty flavour when raw. In wet weather it melts to an inky fluid. In dry weather it may dry with all parts well preserved.

Time - Common during spring and early autumn.

The glistening coprinus is small and beautiful, and grows in clusters on decaying woods, stumps, or buried roots.

At'-ra-men-ta'-ri-us Mi-ca-ce-us