Gabled False Morel

Gabled False Morel

Gyromitra brunnea

Reddish brown, lobed, wrinkled cap; whitish stalk stuffed with cottony tissue. Grows singly or in groups in mixed woods. Late March–May. Cap wrinkled, often with large, saddle-shaped lobes; reddish brown outside, buff-tan inside; cap margin is not fused to the stalk; interior is chambered. Stalk enlarges toward base; whitish; texture grooved to smooth; stuffed with cottony white tissue. Spore print clear to white. Spores magnified are elliptical, smooth.

Lookalikes: Big red false morel (Gyromitra caroliniana) is more brainlike than the gabled false morel, which has large, saddle-shaped lobes. The big red false morel also has a cap margin that is fused to the stalk. Some people confuse true morels (Morchella spp.) with false morels, though spending just a little time comparing them and reading descriptions should prevent any confusion.

Cap width: 1½–5 inches; cap height: 2–6 inches; stalk length: 2–5 inches; stalk width: 1–4 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Grows singly or in groups, on the ground, in mixed woods, often near stumps or dead trees.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Potentially deadly mushroom. While many Missourians have eaten false morels with no ill effect, it has also caused serious illness and even death. The toxin is not completely understood, and it may build up over time to lethal levels. Not recommended!
Life cycle: 
Mushrooms exist most of the year as a network of cells (mycelium) penetrating the soil or rotting material. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops mushrooms, which produce spores that can begin new mycelia elsewhere. For at least part of its life cycle, this species is a saprobe, feeding on decaying materials such as dead leaves or wood. It also might be mycorrhizal, spending part of its cycle connected to tree roots in a relationship benefiting both tree and fungus.
Human connections: 
It is easy to get caught up in hunting mushrooms for eating. But keep in mind that inedible and even poisonous fungi have important roles in nature, and that they possess a beauty in color and form that only humans can enjoy.
Ecosystem connections: 
Fungi and their fruiting bodies, mushrooms, are part of our natural environment. Their importance in forest ecosystems is monumental. Besides nourishing forest trees through symbiosis, they are also the wood rotters of the natural world, recycling nutrients back into the soil.
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