Major Groups > Saddles > Helvella lacunosa


Helvella lacunosa

[ Ascomycota > Pezizales > Helvellaceae > Helvella . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

Helvella lacunosa is a boreal and temperate European species with a wrinkled black head and a contrasting whitish stem that features sharp ribs and deeply carved pockets. Recent European work (Skrede et al. 2017) has clarified this phylogenetic species and designated Schaeffer's 1763 illustration, featured above right, as the type for the species.

Until recently similar mushrooms in North America were thought to represent Helvella lacunosa, as well. But my friend Nhu Nguyen and his collaborators (2013) put that idea to rest:

    The name H. lacunosa has been widely applied in North America . . . but our own preliminary findings, based on limited sampling outside California, indicate that there are at least eight species (four in western North America and four east of the Rocky Mountains) hiding under this name in USA and Canada, plus at least three in Mexico . . . We therefore estimate at least 11 species in North America.

Nguyen and collaborators described two of the western North American species, Helvella dryophila and Helvella vespertina, as new; see the linked pages for help identifying them. Additionally the most widespread and common Mexican species, Helvella jocatoi, has since been named and described (Landeros et al. 2021); it is associated with Oyamel fir in montane Mexico. The remaining eight species, however, remain unnamed and undescribed (and there may well be more than eight).

So, for the time being, I am treating a minimum of nine phylogenetic North American species as "Helvella lacunosa," even though none of them is likely to match the true, European species. I have collected a Michigan version (unfortunately without taking photos), and I have studied several Michigan collections made by Alexander Smith, along with a collection sent to me from Ohio by Django Grootmyers; these are all featured and described together here.

Thanks to the Herbarium of the University of Michigan for facilitating study of the collections cited below. Thanks to Django Grootmyers for documenting, collecting, and preserving Helvella lacunosa for study; his collection is deposited in The Herbarium of Michael Kuo.


Ecology: Probably mycorrhizal; growing alone, scattered, or gregariously in woods under conifers—often in disturbed ground (roadbanks, landscaping sites, and so on); in eastern North America usually found in wet, mossy areas in cold conifer bogs; summer and fall; originally described from Europe, and widely distributed there, although more common in montane and boreal regions; reported from Asia and Central America; in North America widely distributed, especially in northern and montane regions. The illustrated and described collections (aside from Schaeffer's illustration of the type) are from Michigan.

Cap: 1–4 cm across and 1–5 cm high; irregularly lobed and convoluted, or occasionally loosely saddle-shaped or cushion-shaped; black to very dark brown; bald but wrinkled; the margin usually attached to the stem in several places; undersurface bald, gray to grayish brown.

Stem: 1.5–4 cm long; 5–15 mm thick; sometimes whitish when young, but soon grayish to dark gray; deeply and ornately ribbed and pocketed—the ribs rounded, or sometimes sharp and double-edged.

Flesh: Thin; brittle; chambered; whitish to grayish.

Odor: Not distinctive.

Microscopic Features: Spores 13–18 x 9–11 µm; broadly ellipsoid; smooth; with one oil large droplet; hyaline in KOH and in water. Asci 200–250 x 10–15 µm; 8-spored. Paraphyses 200–250 x 2.5–10 µm; filiform, with rounded to clavate apices; smooth; hyaline to brownish, often with granular contents. Excipular surface a palisade of clavate, hyaline to brown terminal elements.

REFERENCES: Afzelius, 1783. (Fries, 1822; Saccardo, 1889; Smith, 1949; Kempton & Wells, 1970; Smith Weber, 1972; Phillips, 1981; Smith, Smith & Weber, 1981; Breitenbach & Kränzlin, 1984; States, 1990; Phillips, 1991/2005; Schalkwijk-Barendsen, 1991; Lincoff, 1992; Abbot & Currah, 1997; Barron, 1999; McNeil, 2006; Miller & Miller, 2006; Trudell & Ammirati, 2009; Kuo & Methven, 2010; Buczacki et al., 2013; Landeros & Guzmán-Dávalos, 2013; Landeros et al., 2014; Baroni, 2017; Gminder & Böhning, 2017; Skrede et al., 2017; Læssøe & Petersen, 2019; Landeros et al., 2021.) Herb. MICH 00022185 (A. H. Smith 77167), 00001789 (N. J. Smith 2013). Herb. Kuo 07209402, 09241601.

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Helvella lacunosa
Type illustration, 1763 (public domain; adapted from a scan provided online by the Biodiversity Heritage Digital Library)

Helvella lacunosa
Photographed by A. H. Smith in 1966
© Regents of the University of Michigan

Helvella lacunosa

Helvella lacunosa

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Cite this page as:

Kuo, M. (2021, July). Helvella lacunosa. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: