Elfin Saddle (Helvella Lacunosa) Identification

Elfin Saddle / Summer / Autumn / Toxic

Scientific Name

Helvella Lacunosa


Common Names

Elfin Saddle, Slate Grey Saddle,


Family

Helvellaceae


Habitat

In deciduous, mixed or evergreen forests. Very often on burnt ground.


Description 

An unusual looking mushroom, they are very irregular in shape and are often overlooked as they can be hard to spot. One of the ‘spore shooters’ (ascomycetes).


Identifying Features for the Elfin Saddle:

Cap:

Very irregular in shape, they are roughly saddle-shaped and dark grey to black in colour. The upper, outer surface is smooth but the underside is felt like to touch.

Jerzy Opioła, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Stem:

Distorted, hollow and fluted, a similar colour to the caps.

Dick Culbert from Gibsons, B.C., Canada, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Gills:

They lack gills, the spores are fired from the wrinkled caps rather than dropped from gills.

Keith Seifert, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Smell:

No really aroma.


Spores:

White.


Known hazards

One to avoid really, older guidebooks may list them as edible but other species of Helvella are known to cause stomach upset unless thoroughly cooked, their texture and taste is poor and there are also concerns around their carcinogenic properties. So are they really worth the risk?


Potential lookalikes

Other Helvella species most likely the White Elfin Saddle (Helvella Crispa) but as the name suggest this mushroom is white in colour. The Elastic Saddle (Helvella Elastica) could also be confused but again this mushroom is much lighter in colour and has a solid stem.

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