Mini Mushroom Guide: Shaggy Inkcap

Lawyer's Wig hiding a fairy, Fineshade Woods Northamptonshire
Lawyer's Wig hiding a fairy, Fineshade Woods Northamptonshire

Encased in ancient broadleaf woodland trees of elm, oak, ash, birch, poplar and more; these fairy houses emerge.

The homes of the fairies here, are protected by the watchful eye of the red kite soaring above. These birds of prey were introduced to Rockingham Forest, Northamptonshire, in 2000.

Shaggy inkcaps (Coprinus comatus), otherwise known as lawyer’s wig mushrooms have a faint but vaguely pleasant smell as fallow and muntjac deer stalk past, proud and benevolent. Adders and grass snakes’ cross paths here, coiling round and hugging these fungi on their journey to a final slice of sun hitting the forest floor.

Shaggy Inkcap found at Fineshade Top Lodge, Northamptonshire

Shaggy Inkcap found at Fineshade Top Lodge, Northamptonshire

Shaggy inkcaps are part of a group of mushrooms which have gills. These gills contain cells called basidia cells which produce the spores (for reproduction). When the spores are produced, the gills auto-digest (digest themselves) which results in a black fluid, giving rise to the ‘inkcap’ name of this fungi.

Lawyer’s wigs are usually found from late summer through to autumn, underneath the squeaking and straining branches of the sycamore, field maple and wild cherry trees also found in this woodland. As common mushrooms, they grow on grass and areas with disturbed soil (such as grassy car parks or road verges).

Lawyer's Wig hiding a fairy, Fineshade Woods Northamptonshire

Lawyer’s Wig hiding a fairy, Fineshade Woods Northamptonshire

Swamped by the ghosts of meadow browns, brimstones, ringlets and silver-washed fritillaries from summer days past, the fairies hide in the bell caps away from prying eyes. Avoiding the cold winds and rain drops.

 

 

 

Information on Coprinus comatus was gained from Roger Phillips’ informative guide entitled Mushrooms (2006). All photos are my own.

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