Gyromitra esculenta

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Gyromitra esculenta

14 April 2006 Surrey. Photograph copyright Leif Goodwin

Common Name

False Morel, Turban Fungus, Brain Fungus, Lorchel

Cap

Wrinked, brain like, reddish brown, smooth, hollow, to about 15cm across

Stem

Often furrowed and irregular, surface finely granular, off white to dark grey, hollow

Flesh

Pale brown in the cap, whitish or pale brown in the stem

Smell

Indistinct

Taste

Do not taste

Season

Spring

Distribution

Frequent

Habitat

On sandy soil with conifers, favouring pine

Microscopic Features

Spores ellipsoidal, with 2 or more oil drops (18-23) x (9-12) µm2

Edibility

Deadly poisonous. The fungus contains significant quantities of gyromitrin, which breaks down to form monomethylhydrazine, a toxic and volatile chemical that has been used as rocket fuel. The fungus is widely eaten, especially in Eastern Europe, where it is prepared by boiling the flesh at least twice and discarding the cooking water. There is some evidence to suggest that the fungus is never safe to eat, even when prepared, and that the toxins are cumulative. Symptoms of gyromitrin poisoning typically appear within 6 to 12 hours of consumption and include a bloated sensation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, headaches, and lethargy. In severe cases signs of liver poisoning appear within 48 hours, sometimes accompanied by neurological symptoms such as delerium and muscle spasms, and death may ensue.

Notes

Take care not to confuse with true morels. Somewhat ironically esculenta means edible.

Additional Photographs

Gyromitra esculenta

22 March 2008 Bedfordshire. Photograph copyright Leif Goodwin

Gyromitra esculenta

22 March 2008 Bedfordshire. Photograph copyright Leif Goodwin

Gyromitra esculenta

22 March 2008 Bedfordshire. Photograph copyright Leif Goodwin