Alcohol Inky

Coprinopsis atramentaria (formerly Coprinus atramentarius)

alcohol_inky_mushroom_halved_09-17-14.jpg

Photo of an alcohol inky mushroom cut in half lengthwise.
The gills of the alcohol inky start out whitish, but they begin to turn black and liquefy within hours.
Lisa K. Suits
Edible
Family

Psathyrellaceae

Description

Gray-brown, bell-shaped, radially lined cap; inky gills. Grows in clusters on the ground, usually near rotting or buried wood. May–September. Cap egg-shaped, becoming bell-shaped; gray to gray-brown; texture dry, smooth, silky, with minute scale remnants; faintly radially lined; with age, cap and gills become inky and liquefy. Gills broad; spacing crowded; white, becoming lavender-gray, then blackish and inky; attachment free. Stalk with equal sides or slightly enlarged toward the base; white; texture dry, silky, fibrous; hollow. Spore print black. Spores magnified are elliptical, smooth, with pore at tip.

Lookalikes: The mica cap (Coprinellus micaceus) has a tawny brown cap.

Size

Cap width: 1½–3 inches; stalk length: 3–6 inches; stalk width: ¼–1 inch.

alcohol_inky_mushrooms_emerging_09-17-14.jpg

Photo of two alcohol inky mushrooms emerging from the ground.
Alcohol Inky (Young Specimens)
If you eat alcohol inky mushrooms up to three days before or after consuming alcohol, you’ll probably get very sick.

alcohol_inky_mushroom_deliquescing_09-17-14.jpg

Photo of an alcohol inky mushroom, older specimen, with deliquescing edges.
Alcohol Inky (Deliquescing)
The gills of alcohol inky mushrooms turn to a black inky liquid as they mature.
Habitat and conservation

Grows in clusters on the ground, usually near rotting or buried wood.

image of Alcohol Inky Distrubution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Status

A good edible, but with caution: If you drink any alcoholic beverage within 3 days before or after eating this mushroom, you can become very sick, with body tingling, heart palpitations, headache, and nausea. Otherwise, it is a good edible. Because of the trouble it has caused for hearty drinkers, it is sometimes called "tippler's bane."

Life cycle

Mushrooms exist most of the time underground or within rotting logs as a network of cells (mycelium) connected to the materials they digest, in this case, rotting wood. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops the mushroom, which is a reproductive structure. Spores are produced in the gills and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere. In inky caps, the spores are distributed when the cap liquefies.

Human connections

When you are eating any wild mushroom for the first time, even one that is supposed to be edible, it is a good idea to sample only a small amount at first, since some people are simply allergic to certain chemicals in certain fungi. Make sure they are cooked, too.

Ecosystem connections

This is one of the many fungus species that live on decaying wood. It and other saprobic fungi play an incredibly important role in breaking down the tough materials wood is made of and returning those nutrients to the soil.