Fungus of the day #16 (imitation week)

Conifer false morel

Gyromitra esculenta




Many true morels look like the false morels that so often try to impersonate them. On the outside, there are no evident differences between true and false morels, but it’s a matter of what lies within the mushroom. The caps of the deadly false morels are hollow, compared to the honeycomb structure of the edible true morels

Widespread, albeit seldom recorded. The morel is very localized in Britain and Ireland. Most of the reports of the morel originate from Europe, as far east as Turkey. In the USA the morel is located during April and early June mostly in the north and on mountains. The mushroom occurs in multiple notable mountain ranges, including the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Range. The mushroom had a role in deaths during the WWII period in Poland and Germany.

The false morel can be found primarily on the ground under conifers in forests. They’re also somewhat partial to sandy soil when the days are getting hotter and the sun beats down on the blazing sand it occupies. The April showers can make way for this deadly mushroom. When not relaxing under conifers, the mushroom is notably also found under pine. With the period of growing being so close to winter, its not uncommon to see this mushroom grow as a result of the water from the wet snow soaking into the earth and giving way to the false morel. The morel occasionally has a spotlight in areas that have been disturbed like timber clearings, rivulets, washes, plowed areas, openings, forest fire clearings, and roadsides.

The mushroom is a brown, brainlike mushroom with a saddle-shaped stalk on a short white cap. The cap is 1 ¼” - 4” (3-10 cm) wide and 2” - 4” (5-10 cm) high. The cap is brain or saddle-shaped and comes in a huge range of colors from a yellow-brown to a purple and back to a vibrant yellow. The mushroom gets browner with age. The interior of the cap is separated into several chambers. The cap itself appears very wrinkled. The stalk is anywhere between ¾ and 2” I3-10 cm) wide and 2-4” (5-10 cm) high. The stalk is very stout and thick and white in color. The stalk, as well as the cap, is divided into chambers, typically one or two.

Oddly, the effects of the mushroom can be canceled out with cooking. It can be diluted via a process of boiling, rinsing and boiling again or dehydration, hydration, and further dehydration. But even so, the removal of the mushroom’s toxins is sometimes incomplete even after this process. THIS SPECIES IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR COOKING! The mushroom uses a toxin referred to as gyrotoxin. The exact nature of gyrotoxin still remains an enigma to the world of science, but its assumed to be a carcinogenic toxin that destroys the number of red blood cells in the body. It’s been noted how false morels cause tumors on animals that receive the carcinogenic.

The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (book) (website) (website) (website) (website)

The false morel, resting in some forest debris