Time to add some fungi to this countdown. Earthstars would be too predictable so I’ve chosen instead to focus on some of the more common fungi that we all see when we’re out on our wanders: the inkcaps. They come in many shapes and sizes, grow in grass and dense woodland, are not always easy to identify, and are often to be found in a state of deliquescence (dissolving into black mush). Here’s a selection of this year’s finds.
Deliquesce: verb; (of organic matter) become liquid, typically during decomposition. Mid 18th century from Latin deliquescere ‘dissolve’, from de- ‘down’ + liquescere ‘become liquid’ (Oxford Dictionary).
These Shaggy inkcaps (Coprinus comatus) may look sturdy and robust but, like all inkcaps and many other species of fungi, they only last a few days, sometimes as little as 24 hours, before turning into a rather disgusting-looking liquid mush, as shown by the specimen below. If you want to read more about the how and why of that process, about the inkcaps’ ‘habit of destroying themselves with their own enzymes’, check out The Dish on Deliquescence in Coprinus Species by Jonathan Landsman on the Cornell Mushroom blog.
Many humans may not know that inkcaps quickly deliquesce but slugs do. This slimy beastie was digging in to a Shaggy inkcap delicacy before the fungus had a chance to digest itself.
I think you can see how this shaggy little fungus got one of its common names, Lawyer’s wig, as it so well resembles the wigs lawyers wear in court. This is Coprinus comatus, also, not surprisingly, known as the Shaggy inkcap. Coprinus means ‘living on dung’ but this fungus really just prefers very rich soil with lots of decaying plant matter. These are usually found in groups of up to 20 individuals, and I found this little group of five along the edge of a woodland path, a fairly typical habitat.
Edit: My fungi friend Graham very kindly pointed out that I had mis-identified my initial find but, luckily, I saw some real Shaggy inkcaps today, so I have changed the photos above to show those.
The confusion species, which my initial photos (below) showed, was actually the Hare’s-foot inkcap (Coprinopsis lagopus). Perhaps you can see why I was confused by all that shagginess!