Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The secret life of a magpie inkcap

Last week I spotted a patch of newly emerged Magpie inkcaps growing in a small area that had been cleared in the car park at Pulpit Hill. I occasionally see one or two of them when I'm out walking, but I've never seen so many in such a small area before.
One week ago, newly emerged, looking very statuesque

At least a dozen magpie inkcaps in a small area next to the car park
Yesterday I went back to see what had happened to them. I found at least 15 in the same small area, in all stages of development. They first emerge as an egg, covered in a thick white veil. As the cap expands, the veil splits revealing the glossy dark brown cap underneath.

A magpie inkcap egg

The veil remains in patches on the cap, giving the fungi it's distinctive appearance and the 'magpie' name. The thick white stipe grows and the cap continues to open and extend into a dome shape.

Dome shaped newly emerged magpie inkcap

Within about a day, the cap will have opened out further and turned up at the edges so that it resembles a bell. The white remnants of the veil often remain on the cap, but may also be washed off or worn away.
When the cap turns to a bell shape it's past its best and will start to disintegrate

At this point the edges of the cap turn black and start to deliquesce (disintegrate by turning to liquid and quite literally dripping away). This process gives this family of fungi the name inkcap.

Starting to drip

Dripping away
 Eventually all that's left is the stipe and a completely disintegrated cap.

One week on, this is all that's left of the beautiful inkcap in the
first proto of this post
They're such short lived, but beautiful fungi, going from egg to dripping bell shaped inkcap within a couple of days. Finding 15 in one small area, in all stages of development, was a very lucky find.

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