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Coprinopsis variegata

[ Basidiomycetes > Agaricales > Psathyrellaceae > Coprinopsis . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

Coprinopsis variegata (also known as Coprinus quadrifidus) is an impressive woodland coprinoid mushroom, often fruiting in large clusters on decaying hardwood logs in eastern North America. Unlike many of its little inky friends, Coprinopsis variegata is fairly substantial and distinctive, sporting a robust array of scaly patches on its cap.

Like many coprinoid mushrooms, Coprinopsis variegata changes color from whitish to gray as it matures--a result of the fact that the gills, separated from the cap surface by a thin layer of porous flesh, darken and eventually turn into black goo.

A taxonomical teapot tempest has tortured Coprinopsis variegata over the years--and recent molecular biology studies have added to the confusion over which name to apply. Here I am following Patrick (1979), who argues convincingly that Coprinus ebulbosus, Coprinus quadrifidus, and Coprinus variegatus are the same thing--and Redhead and collaborators (2001), who place the taxon in the genus Coprinopsis. Fortunately, the mushroom itself doesn't care, and it will continue to impress collectors.

Weber & Smith (1985, A Field Guide to Southern Mushrooms) include "Coprinus americanus" as a species separated from Coprinopsis variegata on the basis of its colors (less yellow, more silvery) and (very slightly) wider spores. However, the taxon appears as a "nom. prov." (provisional name) attributed to Patrick (presumably W. W. Patrick Jr., author of several papers on Coprinus in North America), and was never validly published, to my knowledge. The brief description and photo in Weber & Smith are insufficient to judge whether the putative species is sufficiently distinct from Coprinopsis variegata.

Coprinus quadrifidus and Coprinus ebulbosus are synonyms.


Ecology: Saprobic, growing in large clusters or gregariously on decaying hardwood logs; summer and fall; from the Great Plains eastward.

Cap: To 7.5 cm across; oval when young, expanding to bell-shaped; when young whitish, in age gray to grayish brown; covered with large, loose scales and patches that are whitish to yellowish tan; the margin not prominently lined.

Gills: Attached to the stem or free from it; white at first, but soon grayish or purplish gray, then black; eventually deliquescing (turning to black "ink"); crowded.

Stem: 4-12 cm long; up to 1 cm thick; more or less equal; felty or wooly; white; hollow; sometimes with partial veil remnants attached or with a sheathed appearance but rarely with a true ring when mature; the base attached to brown mycelial strands.

Flesh: Thin; whitish.

Odor and Taste: Not distinctive, or somewhat foul.

Spore Print: Black or blackish brown.

Microscopic Features: Spores 7.5-10 x 4-5 µ; elliptical; smooth; with a central pore. Basidia 4-spored; surrounded by brachybasidia. Hymenial cystidia elliptical to clavate or fat-lageniform; up to about 200 µ long. Pileipellis a cutis. Veil elements more or less cylindric; up to about 10 µ wide. Clamp connections present.

REFERENCES: (Peck, 1873) Redhead, Vilgalys & Moncalvo, 2001. (Saccardo, 1887; Kauffman, 1918; Patrick, 1979; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1979; Weber & Smith, 1985; Arora, 1986; Phillips, 1991/2005; Lincoff, 1992; Horn, Kay & Abel, 1993; Barron, 1999; Roody, 2003; McNeil, 2006; Miller & Miller, 2006.) Herb. Kuo 06070301, 07100305, 06090701, 07050704.

This site contains no information about the edibility or toxicity of mushrooms.


Coprinopsis variegata

Coprinopsis variegata

Coprinopsis variegata

Coprinopsis variegata

Coprinopsis variegata

Coprinopsis variegata

Coprinopsis variegata

Coprinopsis variegata
Pileipellis and veil elements

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Kuo, M. (2008, February). Coprinopsis variegata. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: