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Shaggy Mane Mushrooms

If you haven’t seen some shaggy mane mushrooms (Coprinus comatus) growing near your home lately, they probably will be soon. They are often seen popping up after a good rain in grassy areas such as parks, lawns, and the like during late summer and into fall, although they may grow at other times. They are one of North Dakota’s more common and interesting mushrooms.

The shaggy mane is a large, shaggy inky cap. Inky cap mushrooms are known for their autodeliquescent gills, which self-digest, or turn into a black inky mass as they release their spores. There are over 200 species in this group, and a few of them, including the shaggy mane, are much sought after for culinary use.

Shaggy manes are easy to identify. They have a large white oval to rounded-cylindrical cap with large distinctive scales. The margins of the cap lift and become bell-shaped with age. They have no distinctive odor, and the spores are black. The gills are free from the stem, crowded, white, and turn to a pinkish color before turning black and inky. The stem or stipe has a central extractable cottony yarn-like material.

The shaggy mane has been described as having a marvelous texture and delicate flavor and has a reputation for producing a delicious sauce or gravy. But a cautionary note. A close relative, Tippler’s Bane (Coprinus atramentarius), is known to produce some nasty side effects when consumed with alcohol. And although not definitive, the reaction has also been attributed to the shaggy mane. Symptoms include light headedness, rapid heartbeat, throbbing sensation, and perhaps nausea and vomiting, Recovery, however, is reportedly spontaneous and complete.

Some poor guy tried to impress his girlfriend with a meal including sautéed shaggy manes. Things quickly went south. He reported that she, and I quote here, “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 delayed reaction: the following Valentine’s Day, she ran off with another guy!”

So be on the lookout for shaggy manes in your area over the next few weeks, particularly after a good rain. And if you are adventurous, well, you might consider giving them a try.

More on Shaggy Mane Mushrooms:

Chuck Lura has a broad knowledge of "Natural North Dakota"and loves sharing that knowledge with others. Since 2005, Chuck has written a weekly column, “Naturalist at Large,” for the Lake Metigoshe Mirror, and his “The Naturalist” columns appear in several other weekly North Dakota newspapers.
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