Going Inky

Going Inky: Deliquesce means to liquify, which is exactly what Coprinopsis atramentaria does once its spores hit maturity.  Essentially the parent mushroom sacrifices its body and auto-digests its own unnecessary tissues in order to open up the tightly packed gills. This then clears the way for mature spores to be swept up into the wind.  This whole process only takes a few hours! 

The Dirty Details:  Inky caps are unique in the fact that they are the only group of mushrooms that synthesize a special kind of hydrolytic enzyme called chitinase.  Hydrolytic enzymes are very common in mushrooms and are vital for digestion.  However, the unique enzyme chitinase acts on chitin (hence the name).  Chitin is a complex sugar, comparable in function to cellulose, that is used in fungal cell walls as a means of support.  Thus, most mushrooms would find it crazy to secrete this dangerous enzyme.  Inky caps even hold off until the very last second (once the spores hit maturity) to produce chitinase in its mushroom cap and gills.  It first appears on the end of the gills closest to the stem, and starts a chain reaction leading to the rest of the cap, systematically allowing appropriate mature spores to be released.

Now that you're more knowledgeable than the average person on the mushroom Coprinopsis atramentaria, it's time to relax and enjoy some beautiful artwork made out of coprinus ink! Check out the gallery here!