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The Amateur Mycologist #12 - Gyromitra esculenta - The False Morel

The Amateur Mycologist #12 - Gyromitra esculenta - The False Morel


These posts are not for foraging. They are intended for entertainment and educational purposes only. These posts are not a field guide nor comprehensive in any way - their accuracy is not assured in any way. Do not eat wild mushrooms unless you are a professional or have a wealth of personal experience with a specific species. Do not make any foraging decisions based on these posts.

These Posts Contains No Information Regarding Edibility Or Toxicity


Why write about Gyromitra esculenta, or the False Morel, before writing about real Morels? It's cool and weird looking - like finding a brain in the dirt.


G.esculenta can mostly be found throughout Northern North America and in northern Europe. The mushroom seems to prefer coniferous forests and mountainous areas, however Wikipedia and Michael Kuo place it in areas that don't fit that description, and as far south as Mexico. Everyone agrees it is a spring mushroom extending only to mid summer - April to July.

The reason it is commonly referred to as a "false morel" is because it shares many of the same distribution and habitat characteristics. Plus, all things considered, it looks pretty morel-like.



The photo on the top is a G.esculenta. The photo on the bottom is a Morel.

Superman fans out there will appreciate it when I say that G.esculenta is like the bizarro version of a morel: uglier and meaner.

However, like bizarro Superman, false morels do bear a resemblance to actual Morels, and it is important to know how to distinguish them. The biggest difference is the relative symmetry of a morel compared to G.esculenta. Whereas false morels often look like a mishapen mass of swollen brain matter, as you can see above, a true morel has a consistent conical shape and an overall more pitted look to them, as opposed to a series of folds.

Both morels and false morels come in a variety of colors and often grow in the same climes and forests and during the same seasons.


Macroscopic Features:

  • Cap/Flesh = 4-10 cm high, 3-15 cm wide. Smoother at the start, it eventually becomes wrinkly as it matures. Often extensively wrinkled and looks like a brain. Sometimes saddle shaped, sometimes not. Colors vary: red, purple, brown, golden brown, pinkish tan, reddish brown (you get the picture). But, as they get old, they turn very dark, almost black and can dry up and last on the ground for sometime. The flesh itself is thin.

  • Spore surface = Spores come out of the cap itself, in between the folds from what I gather - I imagine a print can be retrieved by simply placing the cap on a surface for a time. If anyone knows better please let me know.

  • Stem ("stipe") = 3-9cm high, 2-3.5 wide, color ranges from yellow, tan, rose - or cap colored - often lighter than the cap. Often twisted and rounded at the edges. Wikipedia indicates it is hollow, no mention on Kuo's site.

  • Spore Print = yellow

  • Ecology ("How it grows.") = OK definitely saprobic - but Michael Kuo indicates it could also be mycorrizal sometimes. If the latter, probably with conifers.

  • Distribution = All over the Northern US and Europe - often in mountainous areas, but also low lying areas as well. Often in conifer forests, but also in deciduous forests as well. Widely dispersed.

  • Other Traits = The most common lookalike for the more symmetrical and distinctly pitted Morel mushroom, which we will talk about soon.


Disclaimer 2

The only 100% way to avoid being hurt by a wild mushroom is not to eat a wild mushroom. These posts are not field guides - they are intended for the mycology enthusiast, not the forager. If you want to forage mushrooms there are professional resources available to that end online as well as local mycological societies all over the world which you should connect to for guidance.

For The Online Mycokey program look Here

For a Glossary Of Relevant Mycological Terms, Micheal Kuo's Website Provides


Information Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyromitra_esculenta#Biochemistry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyromitrin http://www.mushroomexpert.com/gyromitra_esculenta.html http://blog.crazyaboutmushrooms.com/gyromitra-genus-brain-fungus-mushroom-poisoning/

Photo Sources: [1]By Kruczy89 Own work CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons [2]By Giftlorchel.jpg: Lebrac derivative work: Ak ccm Giftlorchel.jpg CC BY-SA 3.0 [3]By Jason Hollinger Flickr: False Morel CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons [4]CC3 [5]Beentree own work CC 4.0 [6]By Tatiana Bulyonkova from Novosibirsk, Russia Gyromitra esculenta CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons [7]By Giorgiogp2 Own work CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons [8]By NASA Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons [9]By Ilmari Karonen Own work CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons


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