Gyromitra esculenta (Pers. ) Fr.
  Ascomycota   Discinaceae   Gyromitra

Gyromitra esculenta
© Copyright Malcolm Storey 2011-2118 · 3
Gyromitra esculenta

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Gyromitra esculenta
© Copyright Malcolm Storey 2011-2118 · 3
Gyromitra esculenta

Gyromitra esculenta
© Copyright Malcolm Storey 2011-2118 · 3
Gyromitra esculenta

Gyromitra esculenta
© Copyright Malcolm Storey 2011-2118 · 3
Gyromitra esculenta

Gyromitra esculenta
© Copyright Malcolm Storey 2011-2118 · 3
Gyromitra esculenta

Gyromitra esculenta
© Copyright Malcolm Storey 2011-2118 · 3
Gyromitra esculenta
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California Fungi—Gyromitra esculenta Gyromitra esculenta
(Photo: © Fred Stevens)

Gyromitra esculenta (Persoon: Fries) Fries
Summa Veg. Scand. II: 346. 1849.

Common Names: false morel, rain mushroom, beefsteak morel

Synonym: Helvella esculenta Fries

  • Pileus

    Cap 5-9 cm tall, 5-11 cm broad, semi-globose, brain-like, inconspicuously lobed; fertile surface convoluted to wrinkled, lobes separated by deep furrows; color: tan-brown, ochraceous-brown, deep reddish-brown; sterile undersurface of cap cream to buff-colored; margin attached to stipe at several points; context thin, brittle; odor and taste not distinctive.

  • Stipe

    Stipe 3-6 cm long, 1-3 cm thick, hollow, round to compressed, sometimes grooved or with basal folds; surface smooth to furfuraceous, whitish, often tinged vinaceous-tan.

  • Spores

    Spores 18-23 x 9-12 µm, ellipsoid, smooth, with two oil droplets; spores pale yellowish-buff in deposit.

  • Habitat

    Solitary, scattered to gregarious under conifers, occasionally under hardwoods; common in the Sierra, rare in coastal forests; fruiting from late winter to spring.

  • Edibility

    Toxic Potentially deadly, especially raw, but see comments.

  • Comments

    Commonly known as the Brain Mushroom because of its much wrinkled, typically reddish-brown cap, Gyromitra esculenta is one of the more distinctive members of the "False Morel" group. Nonetheless, it is sometimes confused with morels ( Morchella spp.) The latter are easily distinguished by their longitudinally ridged, pitted caps. Although the species name suggests edibility, Gyromitra esculenta is a questionable choice for the table as it contains monomethylhydrazine (MMH), a volatile toxin which in high doses can be fatal. Anecdotal evidence and preliminary tests by Duffy and Vergeer suggest that California material may not contain high levels of MMH, but caution is still advised. Although we cannot recommend eating this mushroom, it is commonly consumned in the Western United states. If you do try Gyromitra esculenta , it should always be cooked in a well ventilated area to avoid breathing any monomethylhydrazine that might be present and the cooking liquid should be discarded.

    Other California Gyromitras include: Gyromitra infula , Gyromitra montana , and Gyromitra californica . Gyromitra infula has a distinctive saddle-shaped cap, the surface of which is wavy to bumpy, but not wrinkled. Gyromitra montana (Snow Mushroom), until recently known locally as G. gigas , is largely a Sierran species. It is shorter, stockier than G. esculenta with a coarsely wrinkled cap only slightly broader than the stipe. Least likely to be encountered is another Sierran species, Gyromitra californica . A beautiful fungus, it has a broad, brown to olive-brown, wavy cap, the margin of which is usually free, and a fluted, cream-yellow, often tinged pinkish stipe.

  • References

    Abbott, S.O. & Currah, R.S. (1997). The Helvellaceae: Systematic revision and occurrence in northern and northwestern North America. Mycotaxon 62: 1-125.
    Ammirati, J.F., Traquair, J.A. & Horgen, P.A. (1985). Poisonous Mushrooms of the Northern United States and Canada. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, MN. 396 p.
    Arora, D. (1986). Mushrooms Demystified. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA. 959 p.
    Breitenbach, J. & Kränzlin, F. (1984). Fungi of Switzerland. Volume 1: Ascomycetes. Verlag Mykologia: Luzern, Switzerland. 310 p.
    Castellano, M.A., Cázares, E., Fondrick, B. & Dreisbach, T. (2003). Handbook to additional fungal species of special concern in the Northwest Forest Plan (Gen. Tech Rep. PNW-GTR-572). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station: Portland, OR. 144 p. ( PDF )
    Desjardin, D.E., Wood, M.G. & Stevens, F.A. (2015). California Mushrooms: The Comprehensive Identification Guide. Timber Press: Portland, OR. 560 p.
    Duffy, T.J. (2008). Toxic Fungi of Western North America. MykoWeb .
    Siegel, N. & Schwarz, C. (2016). Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA. 601 p.
    Smith, A.H. (1949). Mushrooms in their Natural Habitats. Sawyer's Inc: Portland, OR. 626 p.
    Tylutki, E.E. (1979). Mushrooms of Idaho and the Pacific Northwest: Discomycetes. University of Idaho Press: Moscow, ID. 133 p.
    Weber, N.S. (1988). A Morel Hunter's companion. Two Penninsula Press: Lansing, MI. 288 p.

  • Other Descriptions and Photos Main Photo
    • Le Cercle des Mycologues de Montréal: Gyromitra esculenta (D & CP)
    • Pilze, Pilze, Pilze: Gyromitra esculenta (CP)
    • Arora (1986): p. 801 (D), p. 802 (P), plate 206 (CP)
    • Arora (1991): p. 234 (D & CP)
    • Jordan: p. 51 (D & CP)
    • Lincoff: p. 336 (D), plate 714 (CP)
    • McKenny: p. 202 (D), p. 203 (CP)
    • Miller: sp. 395 (D & CP)
    • Orr & Orr: p. 34 (D), plate 6 (CP)
    • Phillips: p.302 (CP), p. 303 (D)
    • Smith (1975): sp. 15 (D & CP)
    • Smith & Weber: sp. 21 (D & CP)
    • Tylutki (1979): p. 70 (D & P)
    • Weber: p. 145 (D & CP)

    (D=Description; I=Illustration; P=Photo; CP=Color Photo)

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