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Morchella esculenta (common morel)

The common morel and related species, popularly known as morels, produce their distinctive fruitbodies in spring and are sought-after edible fungi.
Morchella esculenta

Morchella esculenta, Tauberland, Germany (Photo: Bernd Haynold, CC by 2.0)

Species information

Common name: 

common morel

Conservation status: 

See below.

Habitat: 

Calcareous or nutrient-rich soil, sometimes amongst woodchips or on fire sites, often in disturbed areas. Also in woodland, evidently mycorrhizal with pine, spruce and other conifers at some stage of the lifecycle.

Key Uses: 

Culinary delicacy, medicinal.

Known hazards: 

Although sought-after as good edible fungi, morels should always be well cooked before eating and never be eaten raw. More information below.

Taxonomy

Kingdom: 
Fungi
Phylum: 
Ascomycota
Subphylum: 
Pezizomycotina
Order: 
Pezizales
Family: 
Morchellaceae
Genus: Morchella

About this species

Morels are well known and distinctive spring-fruiting fungi, with large fruitbodies that have long been sought-after as a culinary delicacy. The common morel was first named by Linnaeus in 1753 as Phallus esculentus, from its broad resemblance to fruitbodies of stinkhorns (Phallus spp.), especially those in which the fleshy spore-bearing mass (gleba) has been lost. However, stinkhorns are basidiomycetes, and are now known to be quite unrelated.

Despite being well-known, the ecology and taxonomy of morels remain poorly understood. Species are known to be variable in form, yet are all remarkably similar in microcharacters, so that their delimitation is uncertain. Molecular study has yet to clarify this. Morels also have a complex ecology which is not fully elucidated, including a saprotrophic phase often involving the formation of underground sclerotia-like structures, as well as a mycorrhizal phase linked to various coniferous trees.

Genus: 
Morchella

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