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Morchella elata

Morchella elata is a species of fungus in the family Morchellaceae native to Europe. It is one of many related species commonly known as the black morel, and until 2012 the name M. elata was broadly applied to black morels in North America as well.[1][2] M. elata is a popular edible fungus and is sought by many mushroom hunters.


Morchella asci viewed with phase contrast microscopy

Like other species in the genus Morchella, M. elata has operculate asci (i.e., having an ascus opening by an apical lid to discharge spores), and unicellular hyaline ascospores with polar oil droplets.[3]

This is an edible species, although like other morels, some individuals may be allergic.

Taxonomy and phylogeny[edit]

The fruit bodies of Morchella species, including M. elata, are highly polymorphic in appearance, exhibiting variations in shape, color and size; this has contributed to uncertainties regarding taxonomy.[4] Discriminating between the various species is complicated by uncertainty regarding which species are truly biologically distinct. Mushroom hunters refer to them by their color as the species are very similar in appearance and vary considerably within species and age of individual.

Early phylogenetic analyses supported the hypothesis that the genus comprises only a few species with considerable phenotypic variation.[5][6] More recent DNA work has suggested more than a dozen distinct groups of morels in North America,[7] and over 60 worldwide.[8] An extensive DNA study showed three discrete clades, or genetic groups, consisting of the black morels (M. elata and others), the yellow morels (M. esculenta and others), and Morchella rufobrunnea. Within the black and yellow clades, there are dozens of individual species, most endemic to individual continents or regions.[1] This species-rich view is supported by studies in North America,[1] Western Europe,[9] Turkey,[10][11] Israel,[12] the Himalayas,[13] and China.[8]

The scientific name Morchella elata was defined by Elias Magnus Fries in Europe in 1822.[14] Recent DNA analysis has shown North American black morels to be distinct from European species,[1] therefore restricting the use of the M. elata name to Europe. The taxonomy of morels in North America was clarified in 2012, providing names for many of the black morels that may have been referred to as M. elata in the past:[2]


Morchella elata typically fruits in the spring in small groups on soil in forests. The variety M. elata var. purpurescens, known only from Scotland, has a purple-colored fruiting body.[15]


Morels contain small amounts of hydrazine[16] toxins that are removed by thorough cooking; morel mushrooms should never be eaten raw.[17] It has been reported that even cooked morels can sometimes cause mild intoxication symptoms when consumed with alcohol.[18]

When eating this mushroom for the first time it is wise to consume a small amount to minimize any allergic reaction. Morels for consumption must be clean and free of decay.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d O'Donnell K, Rooney AP, Mills GL, Kuo M, Weber NS, Rehner SA (Mar 2011). "Phylogeny and historical biogeography of true morels (Morchella) reveals an early Cretaceous origin and high continental endemism and provincialism in the Holarctic". Fungal Genetics and Biology 48 (3): 252–265. doi:10.1016/j.fgb.2010.09.006. PMID 20888422. 
  2. ^ a b Kuo M, Dewsbury DR, O'Donnell K, Carter MC, Rehner SA, Moore JD, Moncalvo J-M, Canfield SA, Stephenson SL, Methven AS, Volk TJ. (11 April 2012). "Taxonomic revision of true morels (Morchella) in Canada and the United States". Mycologia 104 (5): 1159–77. doi:10.3852/11-375. PMID 22495449. 
  3. ^ Parguey-Leduc A, Janex-Favre M-C, Bruxelles G. (1998). Comparative study of the asci and ascospores of some Morels (Genus Morchella, Ascomycetes). Cryptogamie Bryologie Lichenologie 19(2–3): 277–292.
  4. ^ Segula Masaphy, Limor Zabari, Doron Goldberg, and Gurinaz Jander-Shagug (Spring 2010). "The Complexity of Morchella Systematics: A Case of the Yellow Morel from Israel". Fungi Magazine 3 (2): 14–18. 
  5. ^ Bunyard, B. A.; Nicholson, M. S.; Royse, D. J. (1994). "A systematic assessment of Morchella using RFLP analysis of the 28S ribosomal gene". Mycologia 86 (6): 762–772. JSTOR 3760589. 
  6. ^ Bunyard, B. A.; Nicholson, M. S.; Royse, D. J. (1995). "Phylogenetic resolution of Morchella, Verpa, andDisciotis (Pezizales: Morchellaceae) based on restriction enzyme analysis of the 28S ribosomal RNA gene". Experimental Mycology 19 (3): 223–233. doi:10.1006/emyc.1995.1027. PMID 7553270. 
  7. ^ Kuo, M. (March 2006). "Morel Data Collection Project: Preliminary results". Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  8. ^ a b Du, X.-H., Zhao, Q., O’Donnell, K., Rooney, A. P. and Yang, Z. L. (2012). "Multigene molecular phylogenetics reveals true morels (Morchella) are especially species-rich in China". Fungal Genetics and Biology. doi:10.1016/j.fgb.2012.03.006. 
  9. ^ Harald Kellner, Carsten Renker, and François Buscot (2005). "Species diversity within the Morchella esculenta group (Ascomycota: Morchellaceae) in Germany and France". Organisms, Diversity & Evolution 5 (2): 101–107. doi:10.1016/j.ode.2004.07.001. 
  10. ^ Hatıra Taşkına, Saadet Büyükalacaa, Hasan Hüseyin Doğanb, Stephen A. Rehnerc and Kerry O’Donnell (Aug 2010). "A multigene molecular phylogenetic assessment of true morels (Morchella) in Turkey". Fungal Genetics and Biology 47 (8): 672–682. doi:10.1016/j.fgb.2010.05.004. PMID 20580850. 
  11. ^ Taşkın, H., Büyükalaca, S., Hansen, K. and O’Donnell, K. (March–April 2012). "Multilocus phylogenetics analysis of true morels (Morchella) reveals high levels of endemics in Turkey relative to other regions of Europe". Mycologia 104 (2): 446–461. doi:10.3852/11-180. PMID 22123659. 
  12. ^ S. Masaphy, L. Zabari and D. Goldberg (2009). "New long-season ecotype of Morchella rufobrunnea from northern Israel". Micologia Aplicada International 21 (2): 45–55. 
  13. ^ Kanwal HK, Acharya K, Ramesh G, Reddy MS (Dec 25, 2010). "Molecular Characterization of Morchella Species from the Western Himalayan Region of India". Current Microbiology 62 (4): 1245–1252. doi:10.1007/s00284-010-9849-1. PMID 21188589. 
  14. ^ Fries EM. (1822). Systema Mycologicum 2. Lundin, Sweden: Ex Officina Berlingiana. p. 8. 
  15. ^ Phillips R. "Morchella elata". Rogers Mushrooms. Retrieved 2008-12-16. 
  16. ^ Stamets, Paul (2005). Mycelium Running. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press. p. 271. ISBN 1-58008-579-2. 
  17. ^ Hall, Ian R.; Buchanan, Peter K. (2003). Edible and poisonous mushrooms of the world. Timber Press. ISBN 0-88192-586-1. 
  18. ^ Groves, J. Walton (1964). "Poisoning by Morels When Taken with Alcohol". Mycologia 56 (5): 779–780. JSTOR 3756634. 
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