The shaggy mane, Coprinus comatus growing in wood chips.
Shaggy ink cap
Spargelschopf [Asparagus Top] (German)
What is Shaggy Mane Mushroom?
Cap: 2.5-5 cm wide; oval to cylindrical, aging to convex or bell-shaped; dry; with shallow grooves near the edge; white, with reddish brown scales. Flesh soft, white.
Gills: free of the stalk, very crowded together, white when very young, becoming gray, then black, and dissolving (deliquescing) with age.
Stalk: 5-20 cm long, 1-2.5 cm thick, becoming enlarged at the base; white, with a hollow interior; with a white, ring-like zone of fibers near the base.
Spore print: black.
Habitat: solitary, scattered, or clustered on lawns, in pastures, or along roadsides; spring, fall, and early winter.
The shaggy mane is a favorite amongst mushroom hunters as it is easily recognized, with no dangerous look-alikes. Furthermore, it is a delicious edible.
However, be sure to cook your specimens shortly after picking; this species will auto-digest (deliquesce) and will probably not last in your refrigerator overnight.
Using the Limulus Factor G test, the amount of (1→3)-β–glucan has been quantified in C. comatus (in addition to various other fungi). The Limulus Factor G test is normally used to measure the (1→3)-β–glucan content in human serum resulting from infection by disease-causing fungi like Candida or Aspergillus, to help clinicians in early diagnosis of infection. However, it is also suitable for detecting (1→3)-β-glucan content in crude mushroom polysaccharide extracts. C. comatus was identified as having ‘superior’ (1→3)-β–glucan content, compared to 18 other medicinal or edible species (Yang et al., 2003).
The chemical structure of a water-soluble fucogalactan obtained from the crude intracellular polysaccharide of Coprinus comatus mycelium was characterized by sugar and methylation analysis along with 1H and 13C NMR spectroscopy. The polysaccharide is composed of a pentasaccharide repeating unit (Fan et al., 2006).
Shaggy Mane Benefits & Medicinal Properties
The water extract of Coprinus comatus was recently identified as containing potent antitumor compounds for breast cancer. Because breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women worldwide, and because there is no effective therapy for estrogen-independent (ER-) breast cancer, these findings are highly significant. The antitumor potential of the water extract was shown to manifest itself in three ways:
Serum lysozyme activity is used as a general indicator of immune system fitness. In addition to breaking down polysaccharides found in bacterial cell walls, lysozyme can also bind to the surface of some invading bacteria and make it easier for white blood cells to engulf them. Chinese research has shown that polysaccharide solutions extracted from C. comatus and given to mice had the ability to increase serum lysozyme activity (Li et al., 2001).
A number of studies have demonstrated that consumption of C. comatus can help regulate blood glucose concentrations. Feeding mice a diet containing powdered dried fruit bodies of C. comatus (one-third of their food intake, by weight) reduced their plasma glucose concentrations and improved intraperitoneal glucose tolerance. Also, body weight gain was halted, even though total energy intake was not substantially reduced. Plasma glucose was marginally lowered 10 hours after intragastric administration of dried C. comatus (3.6 g/kg body weight). The results suggest a slowly generated, mild hypoglycemic effect of C. comatus in normal mice, accompanied by metabolic effects capable of interrupting body weight gain (Bailey et al., 1984).
In other studies, the hypoglycemic activity of fermented mushroom of Coprinus comatus rich in vanadium was investigated. Vanadium salts have insulin-mimetic activity, and vanadium compounds are being studied as potentially orally active replacements for insulin. Vanadium salts mimic most of the effects of insulin in vitro and also induce normoglycemia and improve glucose homeostasis in insulin-deficient and insulin-resistant diabetic rodents in vivo. One study showed that Coprinus comatus fermentation liquid and sodium vanadate inhibited ascension of blood glucose in mice (Han et al., 2003). The blood glucose and the HbA1c (glycosylated hemoglobin – used to measure plasma glucose concentration) of the mice were analyzed. Also, the sugar tolerance of the normal mice was also determined. After the mice were given the vanadium-rich mushroom mycelia, the blood glucose and the HbA1c of hyperglycemic mice decreased, ascension of blood glucose induced by adrenalin was inhibited and the sugar tolerance of the normal mice was improved. Also, the body weight of the alloxan-induced hyperglycemic mice was increased gradually. In the fermented mushroom of C. comatus, vanadium at lower doses in combination with C. comatus, induced significant decreases of the blood glucose and HbA1c levels in hyperglycemic mice (Han et al., 2006).
Polysaccharides extracted from the mycelial culture of C. comatus and administered intraperitoneally into white mice at a dosage of 300 mg/kg inhibited the growth of Sarcoma 180 and Ehrlich solid cancers by 100% and 90%, respectively (Ohtsuka et al., 1973).
Coprinus comatus is known to contain compounds that kill nematodes (Li and Xiang, 2005). Specifically, this fungus immobilizes, kills and uses free-living nematode Panagrellus redivivus and root-knot nematode Meloidogyne arenaria. It does so by making a structure called a ‘spiny ball’, a burr-like structure assembled with a large number of tiny tubes. Nematodes added to C. comatus cultures grown on nutrient agar become inactive in hours. Electron microcopy shows that C. comatus infects P. redivivus by producing penetration pegs from which hyphae colonize nematode bodies. Within days, the infected nematode is digested and consumed by mycelial hyphae. It is thought that this may be a mechanism to help the fungus thrive in nitrogen-poor environments (Luo et al., 2004).
Over fifty years ago, shaggy-manes were found to contain ergothioneine, a thiol compound with antioxidant properties (List ,1957). The anti-oxidant activity was later confirmed (Badalyan et al., 2003).
Nutritional Info / Compositional analysis
- caprylic acid
- glutamic acid
- n-butyric acid and isobutyric acids (putatively).
Interestingly, a mixture of 37 compounds found in the extract had a stronger flavor than the natural extract, suggesting the presence of compounds that mask or lessen the flavor intensity.
The fatty acid composition (by % of total fatty acids) of C. comatus is summarized in the table below:
Fatty acid type
Saturated fatty acids
Monounsaturated fatty acids
Polyunsaturated fatty acids
A Russian study has revealed that various strains of the genus (formerly known as) Coprinus, including C. comatus, have antimicrobial activity (Ershova et al., 2001). I’ll post more details once I get my hands on the original article.
Bailey CJ, Turner SL, Jakeman KJ, Hayes WA.
Effect of Coprinus comatus on plasma glucose concentrations in mice.
Planta Med. 1984 50(6):525-6. No abstract available.
Gu YH, Leonard J.
In vitro effects on proliferation, apoptosis and colony inhibition in ER-dependent and ER-independent human breast cancer cells by selected mushroom species.
Oncol Rep. 2006 15(2):417-23.
Han C, Xing F, Jiang F, Wang Y.
A study on co-effects of Coprinus comatus fermentation liquid and sodium vanadate on the process of inhibiting ascension of blood glucose in mice.
Edible Fungi of China. 2003 22(1):39-40.
Ohtsuka S, Ueno S, Yoshikumi C, Hirose F, Ohmura Y, Wada T, Fujii T, Takahashi E.
Polysaccharides having an anticarcinogenic effect and a method of producing them from species of Basidiomycetes.
UK Patent 1331513, 26 September 1973.