Coprinopsis atramentaria

C. atramentaria(Also known as Coprinus atramentarius)

Alcohol Inky Cap or Tippler’s Bane

Order Agaricales, family Psathyrellaceae

CAP GRAY-BROWN, RADIALLY LINED

Cap:  2-8 cm high and wide; round or egg-shaped when young, becoming bell-shaped to conical then convex; deliquesces (becomes an inky black liquid) from cap edge to center; dry, smooth or silky; gray to gray-brown, radially lined

GILLS BECOME INKY

Gills:  free; crowded, broad; white at first, then pinkish gray, then black and inky

C atramentariaSTALK WITH RIDGED ZONE

Stalk:  4-15 cm long, .6-2 cm thick; hollow; dry; white or with grayish fibrils

Ring:  a ridged zone on mid to lower stalk

SPORE PRINT BLACK

Spores 6.5-10.5 x 4-6.5 µm, elliptical, smooth, apical pore

IN CLUSTERS ON DECAYING WOOD -ON LAWNS, ROADSIDES, OFTEN AT THE BASE OF LIVE OR DEAD TREES

EDIBLE WITH CAUTION

Do not drink alcohol for at least five days after eating

Lookalikes: 

Mica cap (Coprinellus micaceus) -- a light brown cap

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO KNOW...

You could vomit violently if you drink booze after eating the alcohol inky cap, because a toxin in it interferes with your body's ability to metabolize alcohol.  (See Poisonous and Hallucinogenic Mushrooms in Urban Areas)

With this in mind, here’s a story Manny Salzman tells about finding a prime fruiting of the alcohol inky cap on a grassy strip next to the street:

Ordinarily, we leave these mushrooms undisturbed since they are obviously unacceptable companions to our pre-dinner drink. During the past few weeks, however, my teetotaler 81-year-old mother, an inky cap lover, had been visiting us. I got off my bike, kneeled on the grass, gathered and deposited the mushrooms in a paper sack. As I mounted my bicycle, I heard an angry voice, “They’re my mushrooms.  I water them.”  I replied, “I believe the grassy strip belongs to the City and the mushrooms belong to whoever finds them.”  The angry voice continued, “I’m a lawyer and I know my property rights. I pay taxes on the ground. I was planning to eat the mushrooms for supper tonight.” I could not deprive a man of his supper. As I handed him my sack of inky caps, I smelled a strong aroma of alcohol on his breath. Since there was no report of inky cap poisoning at the Denver Poison Control Center that summer, a serious reaction apparently did not occur.

Another reaction to this mushroom -- at least in laboratory animals -- is temporary male sterility.  This is probably why the enthusiasm has waned for developing an inky cap alcohol treatment program.  On the other hand, could it be an alternative to vasectomies? 

Despite all this, many people enjoy eating the alcohol inky cap. Mushroom chef Penelope Zeller (the author of the Penelope's Pantry sections) reports that Jeff Nichols, a dinner guest at her home, became so ill mixing this mushroom with alcohol that he really believed she was trying to poison him. But none of the other four people at the dinner party became sick.  It turned out to be a rotten dinner party anyway, and it’s not clear that the mushroom caused Jeff's sickness.


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