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False Morel (Gyromitra esculenta) Identification

False Morel / Spring / Toxic

Scientific Name

Gyromitra esculenta


Common Names

False Morel, Turban fungus


Family

Discinaceae


Habitat

They are mostly found at altitude in coniferous forests, occasionally they can be found on lower lying ground.


Description 

They contain gyromitrin, an organic carcinogenic poison and are known to be deadly poisonous when raw, as their common name suggests they can be mistaken for edible Morels (Morchella) so care should be taken.


Identifying Features:

Cap:

The caps are very wrinkled and resemble a brain, they can be up to 12cm across. Brown to orange brown in colour. Inside there are many small, hollow cavities.

Lukas from London, England, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Stem:

The stem is up to 5 cm tall, white to cream in colour and fragile.

Аимаина хикари, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Gills:

They lack gills.


Smell:

No strong aroma.


Spores:

Yellow to buff.


Known hazards

They are potential deadly poisonous, symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, dizziness, headache, muscle cramps, bloating, confusion, delirium, seizures and coma. The main toxin is called gyrotoxin, exactly how it effects humans is not clear but it somehow destroys red blood cells it is also carcinogenic.


Potential lookalikes

As the common name suggest they do look like the true Morel (Morchella elata).

This mushroom has deeper pits and has a longer stem. The main difference is when they are both cut in half. The False Morel has a series of hollow chambers whereas the True Morel has one hollow space extending from the cap to the stem.


Extra Notes

The genus name Gyromitra comes from the Greek word for round, gyro and mitra meaning head band. Esculenta comes from the Latin word for edible and its a bit of a misnomer.


Resources

https://www.first-nature.com/fungi/gyromitra-esculenta.php

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470580/

https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-73970_71692_8347-256874–,00.html

https://www.insider.com/woman-dies-after-eating-mushrooms-at-michelin-starred-restaurant-in-valencia-spain-2019-2

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