Good evening, friends,
This week’s mushroom is Coprinopsis lagopus, commonly known as the hare’s foot inkcap.This mushroom was found on 10/6/2021 in the ramble and identified on iNaturalist by Ethan from the New York Mycological Society. I appreciate all the feedback recently and am going to implement some ideas you thoughtful folks brought to me. We’re going to put the fun facts first because that not only seems to be what the people want, but it’s a Monday evening in December – the sun set 90 minutes ago – and it may just be what we need.
The size of these mushrooms can vary tremendously. In one experiment, noted mycologist Arthur Henry Reginald Buller cultivated C. lagopus spores on dung to look at size disparity in the mature mushrooms. He found the smallest mushroom had a stem 1 millimeter in length while the largest had a stem 18.4 centimeters in length. The largest stem was 184 times the size of the smallest and yet they were still the same species and they both retained the ability to produce spores. Fascinating.
Compounds extracted from C. lagopus have demonstrated both anti-tumor and anti-bacterial properties. In a 1973 study, polysaccharides extracted from the cultivated mycelium of C. lagopus suppressed the growth of two types of tumors in white mice. There’s a bit more information on this in Reference 3, but I just wanted to convey the information without drowning us in terms like “polysaccharides”. This study, almost four decades old, just reiterates that mushrooms have so many beneficial compounds and secrets for us to discover and further develop.
In Latin, “Coprinopsis” (and the similar genus “Coprinus”) translates to ‘living on dung’. Home is where the heart is, I suppose. “Lagopus” comes from ancient Greek where “lago” means ‘hare’ and “pous” means ‘foot’. The common name, hare’s foot, derives from the idea that a juvenile mushroom with it’s white, furry universal veil looks like a young rabbit’s paw. If you exercise your imagination you can see in the picture below, despite the tear in the veil, what they’re getting at.
If you have the courage and stamina to read the ecology section you’ll learn the cap of this mushroom turns to ink which can be used for writing/drawing. In fact, the drawings in Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life were all drawn with ink from inky cap (coprinoid) mushrooms. You can see one of the drawings here: https://twitter.com/wilte/status/1379032863182618625. I highly recommend the book but if you want the basic gist that twitter thread is the sparknotes version of the novel.
C. lagopus is saprobic and grows from decaying organic matter – typically wood. In this instance, and in other urban settings, it is frequently found growing from wood chips. It is found across North America and Europe, but is starting to have a cosmopolitan distribution – appearing in urban areas around the globe – as it finds a niche growing in wood chips. The mushrooms can grow as solitary individuals or as dense clusters of a dozen or more mushrooms. In this instance we probably had a cluster of five mushrooms at the peak of the flush.
C. lagopus grows spring through fall and even throughout the winter in warmer climates. The lifespan of the mushroom is lived out in a mere 24 hours and culminates with the deliquescence – the action of a solid turning into a liquid – of the cap. The black ink left behind is actually the spore mass, so as I walked around the park I was inadvertently spreading the spores on my hand to new substrates. The pictures below illustrate the caps in varying stages of deliquescence.
Notice how in the picture above the standing mushroom in the back has white gills. This is the color of the gills before the cap deliquesces. You can see the spores are staining the gills black on the mushroom in the foreground.
Enjoy the balmy temps and sunshine this week,
1) Kuo, M. (2008, February). Coprinopsis lagopus. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/coprinopsis_lagopus.html