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Field characters

Pileus: often striate, autodeliquescent from the margins
Annulus: present or absent
Stature: Vaginatoid, Lepiotoid, or Pluteoid
Ecology: saprophyte, on the ground, often on lawns

Micro characters

Basidiospores: black with germ pore, usually smooth, often lentiform
Cystidia: large pleurocystidia usually present, cheilocystidia not present, but instead there are often sphaerocysts.
Spore Print: black
Lamellae: variable, very crowded.
Lamellar Trama: regular


The common name for this genus is "inky cap", from the fact that the pileus "dissolves" (deliquesces) when the spores are mature. This is a spore dispersal mechanism. The gills are so crowded that the spores would not be effectively dispersed if the cap did not dissolve. This and the black spores are the primary diagnostic features of this genus. The other very dark to black spored genera (Psathyrella and Panaeolus) do not deliquesce.

There are about 50 species in North America.