Major Groups > Saddles > Helvella palustris


Helvella palustris

[ Ascomycetes > Pezizales > Helvellaceae > Helvella . . . ]

by Michael Kuo

This is a small, dark species of Helvella found among mosses is swamps and bog in northern North America--especially in cold bogs of northern white cedar. It features a deeply ribbed, but not extensively pocketed, stem--and an irregularly shaped cap that looks a bit like a limp saddle. I have not collected this species, but I have studied collections made in the 1960s by Helvella expert Nancy Smith Weber. Study of these specimens, together with with analysis of the original description and illustration of the species from 1879, convince me that Helvella palustris is not merely a diminutive form of Helvella lacunosa, as some (including Dissing, 1966) have argued, but a clearly distinct morphological and ecological species.

Thanks to the Herbarium of the University of Michigan for facilitating study of the collections cited below, and for permission to share the photo taken by Alexander H. Smith.


Ecology: Probably mycorrhizal; growing scattered or gregariously on the ground or on woody debris in bogs, swamps, and wet areas; often under northern white cedar; summer and fall; Michigan to New York.

Cap: 1-4.5 cm; irregular (vaguely saddle-shaped or loosely lobed); black to gray; smooth or wrinkled; bald; undersurface smooth, black at first, becoming gray to grayish; the margin free when young, later ingrown with the stem in places.

Stem: 1.5-6 cm long; to 1 cm wide; more or less equal; ribbed, but the ribs not forming holes or pockets; grayish; basal mycelium white.

Microscopic Features: Spores: 16.5-19 x 10-12.5 µ; elliptical; smooth; with one large oil droplet or occasionally with two to many droplets. Paraphyses brown in KOH and water; cylindric, becoming clavate to nearly capitate with maturity; 4-15 µ wide. Excipular surface elements hyaline to brown; often arranged in bundles; frequently septate; terminal cells pyriform to clavate, up to 20 µ wide.

REFERENCES: Peck, 1879. (Weber, 1972.) MICH 25022 (N. J. Smith 2379); 25025 (N. J. Smith 2390).

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Helvella palustris
Photographed by A. H. Smith in 1969
© Regents of the University of Michigan

Helvella palustris
Dried specimens

Helvella palustris

Helvella palustris

Helvella palustris
Excipular surface elements

Helvella palustris
C. H. Peck's original illustration of Helvella palustris from 1879

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Kuo, M. (2012, October). Helvella palustris. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: