Shaggy Mane

Family: 
Agaricaceae
Description: 

White, shaggy, cylindrical cap that turns black and inky. Often grows in large numbers along roadsides and in lawns and disturbed areas. September–October. Cap cylindrical, long, gradually expanding to bell-shaped; white, with flat white scales turning brownish; texture shaggy; with age, cap and gills become inky and liquefy. Gills narrow; spacing very crowded; white, becoming black and inky from the margin inward; attachment free. Stalk tall, straight, slightly bulbous at base; white; texture smooth. Spore print black. Spores magnified are elliptical, smooth, with small pore at tip.

Lookalikes: The green-spored lepiota (Chlorophyllum molybdites) has green spores and its cap is less cylindrical.

Size: 
Cap width: 1–2½ inches; cap height 1½–6 inches; stalk length: 1½–8 inches; stalk width: ¼–¾ inch.
Habitat and conservation: 
Often grows in large numbers along roadsides and in lawns and disturbed areas. Though the shaggy mane is somewhat fragile, it can pop up in strange places—like wood chip piles, hard ground, roadsides, and even asphalt parking lots. It can reappear in the same area for a few years.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide.
Status: 
Considered a choice edible, but you have to move fast! Shaggy manes have a very short "shelf-life," typically only lasting 24 hours from emerging to liquefying. Pick only young, fresh specimens. If you want to store them, cook them as soon as you can after harvesting, then refrigerate. Once picked, they will dissolve into inky liquid in just a few hours.
Life cycle: 
This species exists most of the time in the soil as a network of cells (mycelium), taking nourishment from rotting wood and other decaying materials. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops mushrooms, which are reproductive structures that produce spores. The spores are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere. In inky caps, the spores are dispersed when the cap decays and liquefies.
Human connections: 
Mushrooms decorate nature the way wildflowers do, adding to our pleasure on hikes. Like wildflowers, they are often bestowed with poetic or fanciful names, reflecting the amusement they bring to us. This species is also called "lawyer's wig" for its resemblance to barristers' wigs worn in Britain.
Ecosystem connections: 
This is one of the many fungus species that live on decaying materials in the soil. It and other such saprobic fungi play an incredibly important role in recycling organic molecules and returning those nutrients to the soil.