Sobriety Test! – The Common Ink Cap

This common and cheeky mushroom has a trick up it’s sleeve. If you’re a ‘tea totaller’ then there’s nothing to worry about. Just throw it in the pan, cook it up and get stuck in.

Coprinopsis atramentariaOn the other hand if you’re fond of the odd tipple – beware! The Common Ink Cap (Coprinopsis atramentaria) inhibits the breakdown of alcohol in the liver, and toxic levels will build up in the body.

Ironically, my first discovery of this mushroom was actually on a Sunday afternoon on my way home from the pub! I thought it best to leave it where it was. Had a snooze instead!

If consumed with alcohol a selection of symptoms will occur, including hot flushes, redness of the face/upper body, headaches, sweating, shortness of breath and some tingling in the limbs. These side effects, although not too serious, would be very unwelcome after lunch time. So if you’re going to try some, avoid the juice for a good 2-3 days (I’m guessing, as I haven’t tried it myself). Anyone fancy a pint?

Anyway, that’s the interesting technical part over with, now on to what our common friend looks like. One of its most striking features which it shares with it’s other family members is the cap itself, which has a distinctive ‘torpedo’ or ‘bell-like’ shape. As it matures it will open up, sometimes only slightly, and begin to lose colour and disintegrate. It’s at this stage the gills dissolve and create an inky fluid. In the past this fluid literally has been used for writing ink. Wonderful stuff.

So stay off the booze if you want a taster. Hope it’s worth it.
I’m off to the pub. Cheers…

Update 25.04.11 – Just a quick note on the habitat of the Common Ink Cap. Although most of my finds have been in grassland or gardens, this mushroom is equally at home in woodland. Recent discoveries were found at the base of a rotting tree stump and also coming through a pavement next to a wall (behind which was woodland). Their main source of nutrients is from dead rotting wood underground, hence the diverse locations. TTFN.

The Common Ink Cap in all its glory, although in a slightly phallic pose! The black fluid from the mature gills has been used in the past as a good writing ink, by boiling the inky cap with a little water and cloves.

Also see my post on it’s tasty (non-poisonous twin) The Shaggy Inkcap.

Common Ink Cap

The torpedo or bell shaped Common Ink Cap in grass

Coprinopsis atramentaria

Notice the varying yellowish-brown/whitish-yellow colouring, and varying levels of small brown scales which aren’t always present or noticeable.

QUICK ID TABLE: COMMON INKCAP Coprinopsis atramentaria


4-8cm tall. Initially egg shaped, later bell shaped; opening up flatter with age. Grey/fawn colour. Thin fleshed.


6-17cm x 0.9-1.5cm. White, smooth and hollow. Trace of ring near the base.


Crowded and grey; maturing brown; to black, eventually to inky fluid.
Spore Print: Black (see how to take a spore print here).


Grass, parks and gardens. Growing on buried wood. Spring – early winter.


Edible but can be poisonous if alcohol is in the body, even from days before and after.

The Genus COPRINUS, COPRINOPSIS & Related (Inkcaps): Characteristics to look out for:

• Most species gills dissolve into an inky black liquid as the black spores ripen.
• Growing on the ground, wood or dung.
• Many young species have woolly veil. Felty scales are often left on the mature specimen.
• Smaller species have distinct radial markings on the cap.

7 replies
  1. Alan
    Alan says:

    for the last few years I have noticed mounds of these growing on what I know was a heap of bark chippings that had been left to rot,I always wanted to pick them for cooking but was a bit wary.Well they are back!!! and now that I have found this site it gives me confidence to try them.Do you really have to abstain for a few days?.Any opinion on the taste and best way to cook?

    • J C Harris
      J C Harris says:

      I believe refraining from the alcohol for at least 48-72 hours is a is a must. I have read somewhere that even alcohol used in some personal products can give the same effect so it’s not just booze.

      I haven’t tried to cook and eat them as I’m dying for a drink in between time. Medicinal only of course!!!

      If they’re anything like Shaggy Inkcaps (see post here) then they will taste great, but only picked when young and that was simply frying them.

      If you have a go please let me know what they were like.



Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] due to its different shape but it’s very important to be certain as the common inkcap can cause poisoning if eaten with […]

  2. […] your mouth if using ink-cap ink and drinking – or have recently consumed – alcohol (see here, here, and […]

  3. […] your mouth if using ink-cap ink and drinking – or have recently consumed – alcohol (see here, here, and […]

  4. […] and thus a favourite foraging mushroom. However, don’t confuse them with the related Common Ink Cap (Coprinopsis atramentaria), which gives unpleasant effects if consumed with alcohol; it has a […]

  5. […] The Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus) – (comatus meaning ‘log haired’), is (obviously) a member of the ink cap family. As they get older, the cap opens (though not out flat) and eventually goes through a stage of dissolving and releasing an inky black fluid. A close, and sometimes poisonous cousin (depending on how sobre you are!) is the Common Ink Cap (Coprinus atramentarius). Please read all the details on my post here. […]

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