Tuesday, September 26, 2017

An inky story

Yesterday I came across a fine clump of the common ink-cap (Coprinopsis atramentaria) growing in the newly sown grass of a house just up our lane.  Quite a bit of wood had been buried during the laying of the lawn here and this was, no doubt, what the fungus was growing from.

These dark and delicate caps looked too fragile to last and by this morning they were autodigesting, dissolving away into the eponymous ink of their vernacular name.  As the old saying goes sic transit gloria mundi.

The common ink-cap is edible and it has been used when young in much the same way as field mushrooms.  After deliquescence the 'ink' has even been used to make ketchup.  There is a health warning though - this species must not be consumed with alcohol as this produces a toxin that can make one very unwell.  Another name for this fungus is 'tippler's bane'.

The black deliquescence of the caps was also used to make ink for writing by boiling it with gum arabic and/or other substances.  At one time it was suggested that this ink was used for legal documents to try and counteract possible future forgery. The spores in Coprinus-ink would be visible indefinitely under the microscope.

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