Morchella elata . Fr
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Morchella elata sensu Phillips 2006
© Copyright Malcolm Storey 2011-2118 · 3
Morchella elata sensu Phillips 2006

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Morchella elata sensu Phillips 2006
© Copyright Malcolm Storey 2011-2118 · 3
Morchella elata sensu Phillips 2006

Morchella elata sensu Phillips 2006
© Copyright Malcolm Storey 2011-2118 · 3
Morchella elata sensu Phillips 2006

Morchella elata sensu Phillips 2006
© Copyright Malcolm Storey 2011-2118 · 3
Morchella elata sensu Phillips 2006

Morchella elata sensu Phillips 2006
© Copyright Malcolm Storey 2011-2118 · 3
Morchella elata sensu Phillips 2006

Morchella elata sensu Phillips 2006
© Copyright Malcolm Storey 2011-2118 · 3
Morchella elata sensu Phillips 2006
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California Fungi—Morchella elata Morchella elata
(Photo: © Michael Wood)

Morchella elata Fries
Systema mycologicum 2: 8. 1822. (Pl. 1B)

Common Names: morel, black morel, fire morel

  • Pileus

    Cap 2.0-8.0 cm tall, 2.0-6.0 cm broad, narrowly to broadly conic, occasionally more rounded, i.e. obtuse-conic to ovoid-conic; surface of parallel to meandering ridges and cross-ribs, pubescent when young in some forms; color at first greyish to ochre-brown, occasionally pinkish to blackish overall; with age the ridges dark-grey to blackish-brown, the pits lighter, i.e. ochre to grey-brown; margin when young, overlapping the stipe attachment, less so in age; context whitish, thin, firm, brittle, interior hollow; odor earthy to fungal; taste not investigated.

  • Stipe

    Stipe 2.0-7.0 cm tall, 1.5-3.0 cm thick, hollow, equal to enlarged above and below, the base with longitudinal folds; surface typically whitish to ochre, pinkish to blackish in some forms, pubescent, becoming furfuraceous in age.

  • Spores

    Spores 19.0-24.0 x 11.0-15.0 µm, ellipsoid, smooth; spores creamy to pale-tawny in deposit.

  • Habitat

    Solitary, scattered, clustered, occasionally in large numbers after forest fires, or on disturbed ground, e.g. campgrounds, edges of dirt roads, recently logged areas; occasional in coniferous woods, so called "naturals;" fruiting from April at low elevations in the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada to July and August at higher elevations; fairly common, but sporadic.

  • Edibility

    Edible Edible and choice; occasional allergic reactions have been reported; morels should not be eaten raw; old, wormy specimens should be discarded.

  • Comments

    Considering the attention given to black morels, there is surprisingly little agreement regarding their taxonomy. The problem vexing mycologists is a familiar one. Are black morels a single polymorphic species or a group of closely related taxa? Lacking a modern taxonomic treatment, we have arbitrarily used the name Morchella elata here, though Morchella angusticeps and Morchella conica are closely related, and may be present in the Sierra Nevada as well.

    For morel lovers, this ambiguity is academic as black morels are all edible with caveats (see above). They are recognized by dark, ridged, pitted, usually conic-shaped caps, the margin fused to the stipe, or somewhat overlapping, and a whitish to cream-buff, furfuraceous stipe with folds at the base. Black morels begin fruiting in the mountains a few weeks after winter snows have melted. Modest numbers are found in campgrounds, especially near fire pits, edges of dirt roads, recently logged areas, and riparian areas. Epic fruitings, where morels fruit "as far as the eye can see," are less common, and occur almost exclusively the spring following a forest fire. The "best" burns are those in which trees have been only partially consumed, thus leaving some shade and needle cover for morels to develop. Few fungi are better camouflaged than the black morel. It takes a trained eye to pick them out from a background of partially burned bark, fallen branches, and conifer cones, especially those of Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas fir). Not surprisingly, advice given to novice morel hunters frequently includes the old saw, "find one morel and it will lead you to others."

    Like many edible fungi, black morels are not without pretenders. Inexperienced collectors should become familiar with two look-alikes, Morchella semilibera and Verpa bohemica . The former is a morel with mediocre culinary qualities. It differs in having a ridged, only slightly pitted cap, the margin free to about half the distance to the stipe apex. It is found with hardwoods along stream drainages in the spring. Verpa bohemica , known as the Early Morel, because of its appearance before true morels, has a longitudinally wrinkled, not pitted cap, the latter attached to the stipe only at apex. It reportedly causes digestive upsets in some individuals. More distantly related are the False Morels, species of Gyromitra and Helvella , some of which are toxic. These can be separated by their lobed, wavy, or saddle-shaped caps. Finally, perhaps due to wishful thinking and olfactory impairment, the stinkhorn, Phallus hadriani , is occasionally mistaken for a morel.

    NOTE : This description needs to be re-written in light of recent molecular studies on North American morels. Morchella sextelata and M. eximia are our common burn morels in California. Morchella angusticeps occurs in Eastern North America. Morchella conica is a synomym of M. esculenta , a European species

  • References

    Bougher, N.L. & Syme, K. (1998). Fungi of Southern Australia. University of Western Australia Press: Nedlands, Australia. 391 p.
    Dennis, R.W.G. (1981). British Ascomycetes. J. Cramer: Vaduz, Liechtenstein. 585 p.
    Medardi, G. (2006). Ascomiceti d'Italia. Centro Studi Micologici: Trento. 454 p.
    O'Donnell, K., Rooney, A.P., Mills, G.L., Kuo, M., Weber, N.S. & Rehner, S.A. (2011). Phylogeny and historical biogeography of true morels ( Morchella ) reveals an early Cretaceous origin and high continental endemism and provincialism in the Holarctic. Fungal Genetics and Biology 48(3): 252-265.
    Richard, F., Bellanger, J.-M., Clowez, P., Hansen, K., O’Donnell, K., Urban, A., Sauve, M., Courtecuisse, R. & Moreau, P.-A. (2015). True morels ( Morchella , Pezizales) of Europe and North America: evolutionary relationships inferred from multilocus data and a unified taxonomy. Mycologia 107(2): 359-382.
    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

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

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