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Helvella crispa

by Michael Kuo, 29 October 2022

This astonishing mushroom is fairly easily distinguished by its creamy white colors and its ornately fluted stem; it looks like something on the set of The Lord of the Rings. Additional identifying features include the finely fuzzy undersurface of the cap, and the fact that the edges of the cap are not fused with the stem.

Similar species include Helvella lactea, which has a cap that tends to be saddle-shaped more regularly and a shorter, stubbier stem; Helvella pallescens, with a cap margin that becomes fused with the stem in places; and albino forms of Helvella lacunosa, with bald undersurfaces.

Helvella crispa was originally described from Europe, and it occurs in North America—for the time being. However, the writing is already sketched on the DNA wall, and it is clear from preliminary results (e.g. Skrede et al. 2017) that the crispa-like species of North America are likely to be several, and to receive new names, as has already happened in China (Zhao et al. 2015).

Thanks to Hoa Pham for documenting, collecting, and preserving Helvella crispa for study; her collection is deposited in The Herbarium of Michael Kuo.


Ecology: Possibly mycorrhizal; growing alone or gregariously under conifers or hardwoods, on rotting wood or terrestrially (often in disturbed-ground locations); summer and fall, or over winter in warm climates; originally described from Carniola, in present-day Slovenia (Scopoli 1772) and epitypified from Sweden (Skrede et al 2017); widely distributed in Europe and, as a morphological species, reported from central Asia and throughout North America. The illustrated and described collections are from Colorado, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Cap: 1.5–7 cm high; 1.5–4 cm wide; saddle-shaped and/or irregularly lobed; surface bald and smooth or slightly wrinkled; white to creamy or pale yellowish; undersurface finely fuzzy (use a hand lens), colored like the upper surface or slightly darker; the margin often curled upwards in places, not becoming fused with the stem where contact occurs.

Stem: 3–12 cm long; 0.5–3.5 cm wide; white; deeply and ornately ribbed, with cross-veins and pockets.

Flesh: Thin; brittle; often chambered in the stem; whitish; not changing when sliced.

Odor: Not distinctive.

Microscopic Features: Spores 16–21 x 11–15 µm; broadly ellipsoid; smooth; with one large, central oil droplet and, sometimes, several smaller droplets at each end; hyaline in KOH. Asci 225–275 x 10–17.5 µm; 8-spored. Paraphyses exceeding the asci by 10–30 µm; 3–5 µm wide, with clavate apices 5–12.5 µm wide. Excipular surface trichoderm-like; terminal elements appearing "cellular" from above, 8–18 µm across, smooth, hyaline in KOH.

REFERENCES: (G. A. Scopoli, 1772) E. M. Fries, 1822. (Anderson & Ickis, 1921; Dennis, 1968; Eckblad, 1968; Kempton & Wells, 1970; Weber, 1972; Phillips, 1981; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1981; Breitenbach & Kränzllin, 1984; Arora, 1986; Phillips, 1991/2005; Schalkwijk-Barendsen, 1991; Lincoff, 1992; Mezler & Mezler, 1992; Abbott & Currah, 1997; Barron, 1999; Roody, 2003; Spooner, 2003; McNeil, 2006; Miller & Miller, 2006; Nonis, 2007; Buczacki et al., 2013; Landeros & Guzmán-Dávalos, 2013; Beug et al., 2014; Kuo & Methven, 2014; Landeros et al., 2014; Evenson, 2015; Landeros et al., 2015; Zhao et al., 2015; Gminder & Böhning, 2017; Skrede et al., 2017; Woehrel & Light, 2017; Læssøe & Petersen, 2019; Skrede et al., 2020; McKnight et al., 2021.) Herb. Kuo 09120501, 09281910, 09182104, 08162201.

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Helvella crispa

Helvella crispa

Helvella crispa

Helvella crispa

Helvella crispa

Helvella crispa

Helvella crispa

Helvella crispa
Paraphyses and ascus

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Kuo, M. (2022, October). Helvella crispa. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: