False Morel (Gyromitra esculenta)
The False Morel may look like a true, edible morel that many people forage for in burnsites, but it is a deadly, poisonous mushroom, unless parboiled correctly, however, preparation is still dangerous, as fumes can be inhaled, causing some side effects. But first, let’s break down its scientific name. Focusing on the species, “esculenta” means “edible” in Greek, which can be misleading to some. There are several species of False Morels so be careful!
This species of mushrooms does contain a highly toxic chemical, gyromitrin, which is where the genus is derived from. Gyromitrin can be broken down by hydroxylation to form monomethylhydrazine (MMH) which is the principal toxin in false morel species. In other species of False Morels, like Verpa bohemica, they have toxin chemical compositions very similar to jet fuels (Parker, 2015). False Morels are considered saprotrophs. Saprotrophs feed on decaying matter as a way to get their nutrients.
To learn more about the chemistry of the False Morel, check out https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/methylhydrazine
The Michigan Department of Health wrote a simple but informational guide on the False Morel versus the real Morel. This can be found at https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/Morel_mushroom_fact_sheet_353691_7.pdf.
DISCLAIMER: This post should NOT be used as an identification guide! Please do thorough research before doing some morel hunting!
Written by Anna Cressman
PC: Anna Cressman