Since the rain has started last week, our rock garden has filled with inkcaps. The small, umbrella-shaped fruit bodies (mushrooms) of the fungus grow in grass or woodchips and are short-lived, usually collapsing in a few hours.
This is an inkcap of woodland habitats, where it grows among twigs and leaf litter. Outside of its “natural habitat,” in parks and gardens, this little mushroom is common in flowerbeds covered in woodchip mulch.
Coprinopsis lagopus gets its common English name from the way the young “fur-like” fruiting body begins to come out of the ground before turning into a traditional-looking mushroom. this inkcap has a worldwide distribution, occurring on every continent except Greenland and Antarctica.
The slender, whitish stems are up to 5 inches long and very thin. When the fruit bodies are young and fresh, the caps are reddish brown and can glisten – especially if wet. As the mushroom matures, the outer edge of the cap turn a greyish color while the center remains reddish brown.
This is known as a saprobic species, meaning that it obtains nutrients by breaking down organic matter into simpler molecules. The cool shapes and intricate patterns of this fine, fragile fungus make it a welcome sight on a January day.