While The Great Morel website is intended to be somewhat of an enjoyable experience and not to be used as a mushroom identification page, this page takes exception to that. The “False Morel” is the most confusing and often times most misidentified species of the morel family, therefore, this page is intended to be taken with the utmost seriousness. This page is not an attempt to explore the false morel from a scientific perspective, but to give you a basic understanding, and assist you in uncovering its unique identity and characteristics. You can find links at the bottom of the page that will direct you to other research papers, which delve deeper into the biological composition of this fungi.
The “False Morel” has several species which carry scientific names such as Gyromitra esculenta, Verpa, Hellvella, and Disciotis. The Verpa and gyromitrin species are the most often mis-identified variety. The gyroomitrin is often referred to as the “red mushroom”, the “beefsteak mushroom” or the “lorchel”. There are several true species of the false morel, and while some will say they can prepare and eat the false morel with no problem, others have a drastically opposite reaction to them. Hence, The Great Morel suggests that you do not attempt to digest this particular mushroom.
Research shows this species of the morel family is said to contain a toxic chemical called Gyromitrin, a toxic and possible carcinogenic chemical. There are white papers out on the internet that suggest this chemical can be removed from the morel by repeatedly boiling small cut up pieces in water. There are also shoomers who will tell you they have no ill side-effects from ingesting properly prepared false morels, yet evidence will point out that even ingesting small amounts of un-properly treated false morels can have serious side-effects. Even the preparation of the false morel in itself can be dangerous and may cause adverse reactions, thus avoid inhaling fumes and steam. Research also points out there are various species of false morels that grow around the world, and while some may not be as toxic as others, it is wise to understand this and to do your own research wisely.
Some of the known side effects are severe cases of diarrhea, severe headaches, vomiting, nausea, extreme dizziness, and YES even possible death. The Great Morel strongly suggests that you leave the false morel exactly where you found it. The Great Morel also suggests (as many others do) that even if you have no reaction yourself, not to offer the false morel to anyone else – especially to children and pregnant women.
With that being said on the biological make-up of the false morel, let us take a look at and discuss some of the visual characteristics. Keep in mind as stated above, there are several species of false morel and this page is showing only one of those. Pay close attention to the physical characteristics which are discussed in more detail with images on the False Morel page and additional images of the false morel.