Morchella esculenta, (commonly known as common morel, morel, yellow morel, true morel, morel mushroom, and sponge morel) is a species of fungus in the Morchellaceae family of the Ascomycota. It is one of the most readily recognized of all the edible mushrooms and highly sought after. Each fruit body begins as a tightly compressed, grayish sponge with lighter ridges, and expands to form a large yellowish sponge with large pits and ridges raised on a large white stem. The pitted yellow-brown caps measure 2–7 cm (0.8–2.8 in) broad by 2–10 cm (0.8–3.9 in) tall, and are fused to the stem at its lower margin, forming a continuous hollow. The pits are rounded and irregularly arranged. The hollow stem is typically 2–9 cm (0.8–3.5 in) long by 2–5 cm (0.8–2.0 in) thick, and white to yellow. The fungus fruits under hardwoods during a short period in the spring, depending on the weather, but it is also associated with old orchards, woods, disturbed grounds and burnt areas. Although a process was reported in 1982 to grow the fruit bodies under controlled conditions, attempts to cultivate the mushroom commercially have only been partially successful.
This is the most widely distributed and commonly encountered “destroying angel” of eastern North America. Like other members of the species group it features stark white colors and a prominent sack around the base of the stem, along with a bald cap that almost always lacks patches or warts. As it is currently defined (read: in the absence of published DNA studies), Amanita bisporigera can be separated from the other destroying angels on the basis of its two-pronged basidia, its round spores, and the yellow reaction of its cap when a drop of KOH is applied.
The western North American destroying angel, Amanita ocreata, can be separated on the basis of its range and its (usually) stockier proportions, along with its ellipsoid spores; it also turns yellow with KOH. Other eastern North American destroying angels feature ellipsoid spores and do not turn yellow with KOH; they belong to the Amanita elliptosperma group–a taxonomic teapot tempest of synonyms and minor putative differences (for example, the sturdy ring of Amanita magnivelaris). Fortunately for would-be mushroom identifiers, these species are much less common, in comparison to Amanita bisporigera, and are infrequently collected.
The names Amanita virosa and Amanita verna are often applied to various North American destroying angels in field guides, but those names represent European species that do not occur naturally in North America; the former species turns yellow with KOH while the latter does not.
Volvopluteus gloiocephalus (also known as Volvariella speciosa) can appear very similar to the destroying angels. However, it lacks a ring, has a pink spore print and pink mature gills, and is usually found growing in gardens, lawns, woodchips, and other urban places.
Ecology: Mycorrhizal with oaks, and possibly with other hardwoods; summer and fall; widely distributed and common in eastern North America from Texas to the north woods and the maritime provinces.
Cap: 2.5-10 cm; almost oval, becoming convex, then broadly convex to somewhat bell-shaped or nearly flat in age; bald (very rarely with a volval patch); dry or a little sticky; stark white to ivory, sometimes discoloring towards the center in age–or rarely a little yellowish or pinkish with maturity; the margin not lined.
Gills: Free, or nearly free, from the stem; close or crowded; with frequent short-gills; white.
Stem: 5.5-14 cm long; 0.5-2 cm thick; usually tapering somewhat to apex and flaring to an enlarged base; somewhat shaggy or nearly bald; white; with a persistent, thin, high, skirtlike ring; with a white, sacklike volva encasing the base, which may be underground or broken up.
Flesh: White throughout.
Odor: Not distinctive in young specimens, but often becoming foul and unpleasant (sickly sweet, or reminiscent of rotting meat) with old age.
Spore Print: White.
by Michael Kuo
Kuo, M. (2013, March). Amanita bisporigera. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site:
Often called the “chicken of the woods,” Laetiporus sulphureus used to be an easily recognized orange polypore with fairly soft flesh, widely distributed in North America. However, recent DNA and mating studies (see Burdsall & Banik, 2001) have complicated things, since diverse North American “Laetiporus sulphureus” specimens did not feel like throwing a Transcontinental Gene-Exchange Festival in the laboratory. The resulting six North American species (and one species variety) of Laetiporus also demonstrate clear ecological separation, occurring in different ecosystems and/or performing different ecological roles.
Laetiporus sulphureus, it turns out, is limited to eastern North American hardwood forests, where it causes a brown heart rot in the wood of standing and fallen oaks and other hardwoods. Since it is a heart rot fungus, the mushrooms appear above ground (often high on the tree)–or in a position that would have been above ground before the trunk fell. Laetiporus cincinnatus also appears in eastern hardwood forests, but is a root and butt rot fungus and therefore appears at the butt of the tree or on the ground near its base (additionally, Laetiporus cincinnatus has a whitish, rather than yellow, pore surface). See the notes below on three other North American species.
Ecology: Parasitic and saprobic on living and dead oaks (also sometimes on the wood of other hardwoods); causing a reddish brown cubical heart rot, with thin areas of white mycelium visible in the cracks of the wood; annual; growing alone or, more typically, in large clusters; summer and fall, rarely in winter and spring; east of the Rocky Mountains. The mushrooms do not appear until well after the fungus has attacked the tree; by the time the chickens appear, they are definitely coming home to roost, as far as the tree’s health is concerned.
Fruiting Body: Up to 60 cm across; usually consisting of several to many individual caps arranged in a shelving formation or a rosette.
Caps: 5-30 cm across and up to 20 cm deep; up to 3 cm thick; fan-shaped to semicircular or irregular; more or less planoconvex; smooth to finely wrinkled; suedelike; bright yellow to bright orange when young, frequently fading in maturity and with direct sunlight.
Pore Surface: Yellow; with 2-4 circular to angular pores per mm; tubes to 5 mm deep.
Flesh: Thick; soft and watery when young, becoming tough, eventually crumbling away; white to pale yellow.
Info courtesy of MushroomExpert.com
Kuo, M. (2010, March). Laetiporus sulphureus: The chicken of the woods. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/laetiporus_sulphureus.html
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