Shaggy Mane Mushrooms

Shaggy manes, also known as lawyer's wig or shaggy ink-cap, appear on lawns across the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Learn how to forage these popular and distinctive mushrooms.

Identify Shaggy Mane Mushrooms

Shaggy mane mushrooms are relatively easy to identify. Although individual mushrooms change dramatically over their lifetime, they're only edible in their early stages. As such, to identify a prime shaggy mane mushroom, look for these characteristics:

  • Tall bullet-shaped cap.

  • Large, fibrous scales covering the cap.

  • Overall white in appearance. Light brown near the top.

  • Long, smooth, and hollow stem, sometimes with a detached ring.

The two specimens on the left are just past their prime. Read more below...

Make sure to read out complete guide to safe mushroom foraging in British Columbia:

"Inky Cap" Mushrooms

As shaggy manes age, they start to "dissolve" into an inky black liquid, hence the name "shaggy ink cap". This process accelerates as soon as shaggy manes are picked, so they should be eaten quickly after collection.

For prime shaggy manes, pick when they are in their almost-closed bullet-shaped form, without any black ink showing. The dissolving process starts at the margin of the cap, so look there first. A black ring around the cap's edge is a sign of a past-prime mushroom.

Shaggy mane caps expand as they dissolve, becoming bell-shaped, and then flat. However, by then they are mostly ink.

A group of common ink-cap mushrooms

Above: The common ink cap, a shaggy mane lookalike. Image Source.

Shaggy Mane Lookalikes

Shaggy manes are one of the safer mushrooms to identify and eat. As long as you pay attention to all the identifying features, it should be difficult to make a mistake. The word "all" is stressed because there are toxic mushrooms that separately have shaggy caps, turn to ink, or have a tall bullet-like shape. However, all of these characteristics together are a good sign that you have a shaggy mane.

Here are some shaggy mane lookalikes to learn:

  • Coprinopsis atramentaria - AKA common ink cap, alcohol ink cap, or tippler's bane. Smooth surface, not shaggy or scaly.

  • Coprinopsis nivea - Grows on dung, colour is pure white with small scales.

  • Coprinopsis lagopus - AKA wooly inkcap. Colour is dark grey with fine hairs.

Shaggy manes are an excellent mushroom for practicing your foraging skills. Want to learn some other beginner mushrooms?

Shaggy Mane Facts

  • That latin name for shaggy mane mushrooms is Coprinus comatus. "Coprinus" means "living on dung" and "comatus" means "hairy".

  • Shaggy manes are also called "Shaggy Ink Cap" and "Lawyer's Wig".

  • The shape of a young shaggy mane could be described technically as a "prolate spheroid".

  • The biological process of turning to ink is called "deliquescence".

  • Despite their general appearance and both turning to ink, shaggy manes and the common ink cap are only distantly related.

  • Some think that shaggy manes result in negative reactions when paired with alcohol. However, shaggy manes lack the chemical coprine which is responsible for this reaction in other mushrooms.

When & Where to Find Shaggy Mane Mushrooms

Shaggy manes grow in cool, wet weather. Usually they are found in the fall.

Shaggy manes grow from compacted and disturbed ground. This means that shaggy manes are very often found along paths and on lawns.

Foraging Shaggy Mane Mushrooms: Storing, Preparing, and Cooking

Make sure not to collect shaggy manes from potentially contaminated areas, like road sides or parking lots.

Young shaggy manes should be clean, but they can be cleaned by scraping with a knife.

Avoid cleaning shaggy manes with water. They will already contain a lot of water (as you will see when cooking) and will soak up more.

However, you can prolong the shelf life of shaggy manes by a day or two if you submerge them in water.

Prepare shaggy manes within 6 hours (at the latest) after picking.

Shaggy manes are excellent marinated or in soups.

Once shaggy manes deliquesce, the remaining black ink can still be eaten, or even used as ink for writing or painting.

Shaggy mane mushrooms growing from a lawn on Vancouver Island

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