What You Should Know
Verpa conica is a species of fungi in the family Morchellaceae. Sometimes mistaken for a true morel (genus Morchella), this species is a "false morel" characterized by a cap resembling a thimble that is freely attached to the stem.
Verpa conica is a curious springtime mushroom. Its cap hangs free from the stem, rather like a little brown thimble on the end of a pencil. It and its cousin Verpa bohemica are sometimes mistaken for morels, but while they are closely related to these icons of fungal fanaticism, they are not true morels since their caps are not at least partially attached to their stems.
Other names: Bell Morel, The Thimble Fungus.
Verpa conica Mushroom Identification
Probably mycorrhizal; found under hardwoods in spring (or overwinter in California, where it also grows under conifers); fairly widely distributed in North America.
1.5–3 cm across; 2–4 cm high; convex or, more frequently, irregularly thimble-shaped; often with a slightly out curved margin when mature; tan to brown or dark brown; bald; tacky when wet; smooth or somewhat wrinkled at maturity.
Colored like the cap; when fresh covered with a whitish bloom.
3–12 cm long; 0.5–2 cm thick; more or less equal; creamy white to yellowish; sometimes featuring more or less concentric bands of pale brownish fibrils; hollow, but stuffed with a cottony pith.
Thin and brittle; cottony pith inside stem whitish.
Spore Print: Pale orangish.
Verpa conica Taxonomy
The species was first described under the name Phallus conicus by Otto Friedrich Müller in 1775. Later authors have moved the taxon to various genera: Persoon placed in Leotia in 1801, Samuel Frederick Gray transferred it Relhanum in 1821, while Otto Kuntze moved it to Monka in 1898. The species was transferred to Verpa by Olof Swartz in 1814.
Verpa conica Uses
There is evidence that V. conica may contain compounds that function as an antioxidant. While not necessarily recommended for consumption, it is possible that an extract from V. conica could be used as an antioxidant supplement. A study done on the antioxidant activity of various mushroom species indicates that this species of Verpa does particularly well in reducing power. They also do well in binding iron, which may be related to peroxidation protection.
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