Major Groups > False Morels > Gyromitra sphaerospora


Gyromitra sphaerospora

[ Ascomycetes > Pezizales > Discinaceae > Gyromitra . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

Uncommon, but widely distributed in northern North America, this fascinating species is near the top of my "mushroom wish list." I've never seen it in the fresh state, although I have studied several collections preserved in herbaria. The species is just so cool looking--and I suppose the fact that it is relatively rare adds to its appeal. Mycologist Joe Ammirati, who has seen more cool mushrooms than most of us will ever see, says this about collecting Gyromitra sphaerospora: "There are some things one does not forget, sphaerospora is one of them."

Identifying features for Gyromitra sphaerospora include the cushion-shaped, brown cap; the pinkish to purplish, ribbed stem; the habitat on mossy, well decayed logs; and, under the microscope, round spores that feature a prominent de Bary bubble at maturity. Gyromitra californica is a similar species that appears on the West Coast and features ellipsoid spores with two oil droplets.

Some mycologists place Gyromitra sphaerospora and Gyromitra californica in a separate genus, Pseudorhizina--but DNA studies (e.g. O'Donnell and collaborators, 1997) have not supported this idea; thus Pseudorhizina sphaerospora is a synonym.

Thanks to Raymond McNeil, author of the gorgeous book Le grand livre des champignons du Québec et de l'est du Canada (2006), for his photo of Gyromitra sphaerospora as it appears in nature--and thanks to the Herbarium of the University of Michigan for facilitating study of the collections cited below and for permission to reproduce the collectors' photos of the material in the fresh state.


Ecology: Saprobic; growing alone, scattered, or gregariously on moss-covered, well rotted hardwood and conifer logs; late spring and early summer; northern North America from about the Great Lakes northward, and west to Alberta.

Cap: 4-14 cm across; 2-8 cm high; loosely convex, with a puffy and undulating appearance; rarely slightly 2-lobed and saddle-shaped; bald; the margin folded inward; medium to dark brown; often becoming finely cracked with maturity; undersurface whitish to brownish, finely granular, ribbed.

Flesh: Thin; fragile; whitish.

Stem: 2-10 cm high; 1-6 cm wide; widely and irregularly ribbed with sharp-edged ribs that extend onto the undersurface of the cap; whitish above, pinkish to purplish red below.

Microscopic Features: Spores 8.5-12 µ; globose; developing a large de Bary bubble with maturity; smooth. Asci 8-spored. Paraphyses cylindric, with rounded or subclavate to clavate apices; often as thick as the asci; contents brownish; 5-18 µ wide.

REFERENCES:(Peck, 1875) Saccardo, 1889. (Harmaja, 1973; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1981; Bessette, Miller, Bessette & Miller, 1995; Weber, 1995; Abbott & Currah, 1997; Kuo, 2005; McNeil, 2006.) Herb. MICH 25707 (H. E. Bigelow 3043), 25710 (AHS 36273), J. Ammirati 4213, J. Ammirati 4214, N. S. Weber 2443.

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Gyromitra sphaerospora

Gyromitra sphaerospora
Collected and photographed by A. H. Smith in 1951
© Regents of the University of Michigan

Gyromitra sphaerospora
Collected and photographed by H. E. Bigelow in 1956
© Regents of the University of Michigan

Gyromitra sphaerospora

Gyromitra sphaerospora

© MushroomExpert.Com

Cite this page as:

Kuo, M. (2012, July). Gyromitra sphaerospora. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: