Phylum: Basidiomycota. Class: Agaricomycetes. Order: Agaricales. Family: Agaricaceae
Coprinus comatus, commonly known as Lawyers’ Wigs or Shaggy Ink Cap or Shaggy Mane is a distinctive fungus that grows on lawns and roadsides. It’s tall mushroom and easy to spot from a distance. I often see them on the lawns by the tennis courts at Elizabeth.
It’s shaggy looking scales on the cap suggests to some the wigs that legal professionals wear in court. They get hairier and shaggier as they dry out. Ironically, these were photographed by some tennis courts (not Law courts)! They’re mycorrhizal association is with grasses, that’s why you’ll mostly find them in lawns.
Lawyers’ Wigs, being one of the Ink Cap variety of fungi, auto-digest themselves because of an enzyme that they contain. They don’t last too long and decompose into a black slime fairly quickly after fruiting, with the gills changing from white to pink to black then liquefying. This black liquid contains the spores and can use be used as an ink to write or draw pictures with. Drawing with it is a way that you can help the mushroom spread its spores.
If you see a shaggy, tall mushroom in a grassy area, look for these details –
If you find a mushroom on grass or gravel that fits all of the above requirements, you’ve got yourself a Lawyer’s Wig/Shaggy Mane/Shaggy Ink Cap!
Caution: Eat Coprinus to your heart’s content, but don’t consume them with alcohol. Doing this can cause an allergic reaction.
For reference, they’re listed on page 43 of ‘A field guide to Australian Fungi’ by Bruce Fuhrer.