|Gyromitra esculenta contains large amounts of the toxin, gyromitrin.|
What was going on? Where were these famous mushrooms? I finally figured it out when, one May day, I bumped into a stranger in the woods. A stranger with a big bag full of...not delectably edible morels, but false morels—Gyromitra esculenta, to be precise. He'd been eating them for years, he told me.
"Maybe not for many more," I suggested, a less confrontational reply, I decided, than starting a discourse about trespassing.
|Unlike real morels, false morels, like Gyromitra esculenta, are not hollow.|
Though people claim that by using specific cooking methods they can render various Gyromitra species edible ("esculenta" actually means "edible"), there may be long-term cumulative effects of the toxin, and 2 to 4 percent of all fungal fatalities are associated with them. Before anyone convinces you to try eating one, please read Tom Volk's excellent page on their toxicity.
Though there's a fall species in my area, G. infula—that's usually saddle-shaped and grows on rotting logs—the only spring one I've found around here is G. esculenta. Last weekend, though, on a Mycological Society of Toronto foray northeast of the city, we found a different one.
|Gyromitra gigas looks less "brainy" than G. esculenta.|
|Gyromitra gigas has a convoluted interior.|
|Cottony interior of Gyromitra gigas|
|Gyromitra esculenta spores have two oil droplets.|
|Gyromitra gigas asci, spores, and colored paraphyses.|
|Gyromitra gigas spores have knoblike apiculi on either end.|
Gyromitra gigas on Mycoquebec
Gyromitra esculenta on Tom Volk's Mushroom of the Month
Tom Volk's excellent page about Gyromitra toxicity.