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Summary: Features include a saddle-shaped to 2-lobed or irregularly lobed cap that is yellow-brown to orange brown, with the edge curved down on one horizontal axis and up on the horizontal axis at right angles, and both fused to itself (to form the saddle) and fused to stem; white to pale brown downy underside; pallid pinkish cream to grayish purple brown downy stem that is round in cross-section or often fluted at base; growth under conifers (especially spruce) or on conifer wood; and narrowly elliptic spores with two droplets and no apiculi. Harmaja described Gyromitra columbiana in 1986 from BC, and separated it from G. infula "based on the densely folded hymenium and large clavate paraphyses" and from G. esculenta "based primarily on smaller ascospores", but the description seems consistent with G. infula, (Abbott). Gyromitra species can be very poisonous when eaten raw, although toxicity varies with the individual, and certain individuals who have eaten Gyromitra mushrooms without effect have had severe reactions on another exposure. In a 1967 report of 513 cases of this kind of poisoning, 14% were fatal. Gyromitra infula is probably like Gyromitra esculenta in containing gyromitrin (and other hydrazones), which is metabolized to what appear to be the major toxin, monomethylhydrazine (that has been used as a rocket fuel). Much but not all of this becomes a vapor during cooking and can be poisonous as vapor. Poisoning starts between 2 and 24 hours and may start with vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and headache. Sometimes there is fever. Liver toxicity occurs at about 36-48 hours, and then neurological symptoms including seizures and coma. Sometimes there is intravascular hemolysis, kidney failure, or methemoglobinemia. With lower doses, there is still concern that these mushrooms are carcinogenic. (Benjamin from “Despite”). Collections examined from BC, WA, ID, AB, MB, NWT, SK, AK, CA, MT, NY, WY, Costa Rica, Slovakia, and Sweden, and G. infula has been reported also from OR, eastern North America, Europe, and Asia, (Abbott). Distribution also includes MI (Castellano) and Switzerland (Breitenbach).
Cap: 1.7-8cm across, 2.5-7cm high, (up to 13cm across and 9.5cm high when fresh), saddle-shaped to irregularly lobed, often 2-lobed, margin typically fused to stem and along cap margin; when fresh yellow-brown to orange-brown, sometimes dark red-brown when old, when dry dark brown to red-brown or blackish brown; typically undulate-rugose [wavy-wrinkled], "but sometimes wrinkled-convoluted or nearly smooth", (Abbott), 3-10cm across, "saddle-shaped or 3-lobed, with an incurved margin; reddish brown to dark brown; wrinkled to convoluted", (Phillips), up to 12cm high and 14cm wide, more or less regularly miter-like already when young, rarely with 3 lobes, very rarely irregularly lobate without distinct horns; "indistinctly hygrophanous, mostly red-brown when wet", sometimes darker, "when dry pale brown to blackish brown, very rarely with a slight violet tint, very often whitish hoary from discharged spores", the outer edge of the lobes "is seamed from top down to the margin of the cap"; surface most often even but not infrequently irregularly rugose [wrinkled] "and with mostly minute folds", (Harmaja(6)), sometimes cup-shaped when very young
Flesh: brittle (Phillips), fragile; whitish, (Breitenbach), rather thin, brittle, (Arora), breaks cheese-like everywhere, in the stem less brittle than in the cap; pale, (Harmaja(6))
Underside: white to pale brown; pubescent, (Abbott), paler than upper surface, minutely velvety, (Arora)
Stem: 0.9-9.0 x 0.5-3cm (up to 11cm long and 6cm wide when fresh), equal or enlarged at base, round in cross-section or often fluted at base; pallid pinkish cream to grayish purple brown; pubescent, (Abbott), 1-6cm long and 2cm wide, hollow, sometimes irregular; whitish to buff, (Phillips), white or tinted pinkish red; white mycelium at base, (Trudell), 3-12cm x 1.5-3cm, equal, cylindric and solid when young, later becoming hollow "and the walls often growing together so that it becomes more or less compressed when old"; indistinctly hygrophanous, pale brown to grayish lilac, "of other colour and paler than the hymenium"; surface fluffy throughout with very short pallid hairs; at the base "there is sparsely whitish tomentum"; cap is attached to stem only at the margin and stem accordingly "continues as a distinct columella in the hollow cap", (Harmaja(6))
Odor: faint mushroomy (Lincoff(1)), not distinct (Harmaja)
Microscopic: spores 17-23 x (7)8-10(11) microns, narrowly elliptic, smooth, colorless, with two droplets, very rarely with 1 or 3 droplets, without apiculi; asci 250-300 x 12-17 microns; paraphyses 7-10 microns wide at tip, clavate, gradually widened or abruptly swollen at tip, brown, contents granular, (Abbott), spores 19-23 x 7-8 microns, elliptic, smooth, with 2 large oil droplets, (Phillips), spores (17.0)20.0-23.0(26.0) x 7.0-10.0 microns, "oblong-subfusiform with broad rounded apices, thickest in the middle, slightly inequilateral", smooth, colorless in KOH, yellowish in Melzer's reagent, rather thick-walled (about 0.5-0.6 microns), with 2 large droplets, perispore present, slightly (1.0 micron at most) "off from the spore wall at the spore apices where thus two inconspicuous appendages are formed, otherwise usually appressed onto the wall (exceptionally everywhere off from the spore wall)", perispore plasma deep blue in cotton blue, spores mostly 1-seriate; asci 8-spored, 200-260 x 10-20 microns; paraphyses capitate to subclavate, +/- straight, very thin-walled, sometimes branching in lower part, septate, +/- abruptly expanding to a roundish head as much as 13.0 microns wide "and covered with a more or less thick layer of red-brown mass" (in both KOH and Melzer's reagent, and "sometimes the stalk is encrusted below the head too"), contents dirty yellowish brownish to red-brown in KOH as well as in Melzer's reagent, (Harmaja(6)), spores 19-20 x 7-8.5 microns; asci 8-spored, 250-330 x 14-15 microns, not turning blue in iodine; paraphyses commonly forked toward tips, with ends up to 10 microns wide, (Breitenbach)
Spore Deposit: white to pale cream (Abbott), slightly yellowish (Harmaja(6))
Habitat / Range
single, gregarious, subcespitose [somewhat tufted], or scattered on ground or more often on rotted coniferous wood or hardwood in coniferous or mixed woods, rarely in hardwood woods, from July 15 to Feb 17 in BC, with the majority of collections in August, September, and October, (Abbott), single to scattered on humus and rotting wood or debris, (Phillips), in most locations fruits in late summer and fall, but in CA winter and early spring, (Arora), July to October in the east, November to April in the west, (Lincoff(2)), single or in groups near conifers (spruce almost always present) "from grass-herb rich forests to dry heath forests, very often in decaying wood" (mostly of Picea, rarely Pinus or Betula), otherwise especially on bare soil, "sometimes on burnt areas, very rarely even among charcoal", often where the ground has been disturbed, for example by roads and paths, mostly below 200m and not above 500m, from latter half of August to mid-November, (Harmaja(6) for Fennoscandia), also occurs before July in BC and WA
Gyromitra ambigua tends to be darker red-brown with stronger violaceous tints, and has apiculate spores that are subfusoidal and 21-30 microns long, (Abbott). G. ambigua 1) has a more or less distinct violet tinge, especially when fresh, 2) the fruitbody is smaller on average, 3) the cap usually darker (even black when dry, brownish hoary when dry from discharged spores rather than whitish), 4) the hymenium is more often wrinkled (it is smooth when young and sometimes later too but with age it often becomes irregularly wrinkled), 5) the seam at the outer side of the lobes of the cap seems to be less prominent and tighter, 6) habitat favors pines (perhaps always associated at least in Europe) and poor sandy soil whereas G. infula occurs on less poor sites, especially near Picea and often in decaying wood, 7) distribution is more northern and favors higher altitudes, 8) fruiting season is on the average some weeks earlier where both occur, 9) most importantly, since "the macroscopic features alone very often do not permit a positive identification", the spores are different - the spores of G. ambigua "are longer (even without the perispore), broader, the true spore apex is narrower and the spores thus more clearly fusiform, and the perispore is more inflated at the spore apices", 10) the paraphyses enlarge more gradually to the apex, "which is somewhat narrower on the average". (Harmaja(6)). Gyromitra esculenta fruits in spring, has a large convoluted head that is medium to dark red brown or orange brown, and spore size and apiculation are different, (Abbott). Helvellas with non-fluted stems usually have more slender stems, and the color of the cap generally different, (Arora).
Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2017. E-Flora BC:
Electronic Atlas of the Plants of British Columbia [eflora.bc.ca]. Lab for
Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British
Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed:
16/06/2019 12:08:00 AM
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