What You Should Know
Verpa bohemica is an edible mushroom after long cooking, of lesser value than the Morchella, even if in some zones it is much consumed.
This false morel is collected and eaten by many people and some even prefer it to true morels. It seems to cause digestive upset in a greater proportion of people than morels do, so use caution and sample them in small amounts until you ascertain your tolerance.
This mushroom mistakenly called the "early morel" in some areas, appears very early in the spring, and continues fruiting during the true morel season. It bears a resemblance to the half-free morels, Morchella populiphila and Morchella punctipes, but the half-free morels are exactly that—half-free—while Verpa bohemica has a cap that hangs completely free of the stem, attached only at the top.
Another way to separate the two mushrooms is to cut them open; the half-free morels are hollow, while Verpa bohemica usually has cotton-candy-like wisps of flesh inside. On close inspection, the verpa has a cap that is (usually) different, as well; it tends to look wrinkled, rather than pitted (though old specimens can develop a decidedly "pitted" look).
Other names: Early Morel, Early False Morel, The Wrinkled Thimble-Cap.
Verpa bohemica Mushroom Identification
2–4 cm high; 1.5–3 cm across; nearly conical, or bell-shaped, or somewhat irregular; wrinkled longitudinally, sometimes appearing pitted and ridged (and then with ridges darker than pits); dry or moist; finely fuzzy or bald; tan to brown or dark yellow-brown; undersurface whitish.
8–22 cm long; 1.5–3 cm thick; more or less equal, or sometimes tapered upwards or downwards; creamy white to dull yellow; sometimes discoloring orangish when handled; often featuring fine scurf that forms concentric belts.
Thin; the cap and stem are hollow, or loosely stuffed with whitish, wispy fibers (like cotton candy) in the stem.
Probably mycorrhizal; found under hardwoods and sometimes under conifers in early spring; widely distributed throughout northern North America.
Half-free morels vs Verpa
Half-free morels have a cap that is attached at a "midpoint" of the stem. Verpa caps are completely loose and are only connected to the stem at the top. Half-free morels are hollow inside and Verpas will often have cottony pith inside their stem, resembling Gyromitra species.
Verpa bohemica Similar Species
The closely related species Verpa conica typically has a smooth cap, although specimens with wrinkled caps are known. V. conica may be distinguished microscopically by its eight-spored asci. It is North American range extends much further south than V. bohemica.
Another similar group of species is the "half-free" morels, Morchella semilibera and others, which have a honeycombed cap that is attached to the stalk for about half of its length, and with ridges that are darker than the pits.
Additionally, a cross-sectioned stem of a specimen of M. semilibera is hollow, while V. bohemica usually has cottony wisps in the stem, and M. semilibera usually has vertical perforations near the base, while V. bohemica lacks them.
Verpa bohemica may be reliably distinguished from all similar species by its much larger spores.
Verpa bohemica Taxonomy and Etymology
The species was first described in the scientific literature by the Czech physician and mycologist Julius Vincenz von Krombholz in 1828, under the name Morchella bohemica. The German naturalist Joseph Schröter transferred it to the genus Verpa in 1893.
PtychoVerpa bohemica is a synonym that was published by Frenchman Jean Louis Émile Boudier in his 1907 treatise on the Discomycetes of Europe; the name is still occasionally used, especially in European publications.
Boudier believed that the large, curved ascospores and the rare and short paraphyses were sufficiently distinct to warrant a new genus to contain the single species.
Ptychoverpa has also been classified as a section of Verpa. The section is characterized by the presence of thick longitudinal ridges on the cap that can be simple or forked. The species was first discovered in Canada by Alfred Brooker Klugh shortly before 1910 where it was referred to by another synonym, Morchella bispora.
The specific epithet bohemica refers to Bohemia (now a part of the Czech Republic), where Krombholz originally collected the species. The mushroom is commonly known as the "early morel", "early false morel", or the "wrinkled thimble-cap". Ptychoverpa is derived from the Ancient Greek ptyx (genitive form ptychos), meaning "fold", layer", or "plate".
Photo 1 - Author: Svencapoeira (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)
Photo 2 - Author: Enrico Tomschke (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International)
Photo 3 - Author: Copyright © 2009 J.H. (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)
Photo 4 - Author: Enrico Tomschke (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International)
Photo 5 - Author: Aljabakphoto (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)
Shape: True Morels
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