Observation 44109: Morchella Dill. ex Pers.

When: 2010-04-10

Collection location: Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve, Santa Cruz Co., California, USA [Click for map]

Who: Alan Rockefeller (Alan Rockefeller)

No specimen available

Found at the site of the 2008 Martin Rd. fire.

Please login to propose your own names and vote on existing names.

Eye3 = Observer’s choice
Eyes3 = Current consensus


Add Comment
and of course …
By: Debbie Viess (amanitarita)
2016-03-04 10:43:08 CST (-0500)

completely illegal to collect anything in this reserve.

Fraxinus excelsior
By: Irene Andersson (irenea)
2010-04-20 03:47:01 CDT (-0400)

is the ash we have here, but it looks a lot like the Oregon ash. The morel that is supposed to be associated with Fraxinus (and other trees), is usually called Morchella rotunda. It’s the most common morel in the Mediterranean area.

I don’t know why the URL doesn’t work (perhaps too long), but it’s no big deal..

By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2010-04-19 14:44:02 CDT (-0400)

Was that possibly Oregon ash? The reason I ask is that while now uncommon in most of Northern Oregon, Oregon ash is still occasionally found, and I have it on some of my property. Have never found morels there, though.

Have read a little more
By: Irene Andersson (irenea)
2010-04-19 07:01:28 CDT (-0400)

Here’s one article:

Lab tests have shown the fruiting pattern of morels:
When they run out of nutrition (by a fire or other disturbance?), the mycelium becomes sclerotia.
The next step, when the sclerotia create fruitbodies, only water is needed and they can use their stored nutrition. This could be interpreted as a crisis situation for them, taking a chance to escape to new grounds by spreading spores, but this kind of disturbance is also a trigger of regenerating and taking new steps in evolution. A fire is not an advantage for the morel itself, but it is lucky to have a strategy that helps it survive fires, periods of drought, etc. An advantage is of course that it probably has survived many of its competitors along the way.

How the morels acquire nutrition, or what kind of environment that gives the best mycelial growth in the wild, is another question.

First, there are no strict limits between saprobic/parasitic or mycorrhizal strategies. How it acts in reality, depends on the circumstances and the stages of the “infestation” (not a mycophobic expression, it just tells how it starts).

Although some kind of symbiosis is possible at times, I find it hard to beleive that any morel is completely depending on mycorrhiza. I have seen them too often in areas where no host has been available. One particular species is often found under Fraxinus, but then they are old trees with many dead branches, with corresponding dead roots below. It’s not impossible that they can stretch the limits from being saprobic to act parasitic either.

Compare them with a rather closely related cousin, Rhizina undulata. It is supposed to be mainly saprobic on dead conifer roots, but after fires, dormant spores are germinating, and they become parasites on living (but certainly damaged) conifer roots. With a bit of luck, it could have been the start of a kind of endomykorrhiza, but this cup fungus kills the trees instead..

Morchella mycorrhiza
By: walt sturgeon (Mycowalt)
2010-04-18 16:25:41 CDT (-0400)

in some morel species can happen with apple and elm as I recall. Tom Volk’s lab has indicated these symbiotic connections.

Sorry if I offended you, Paul.
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2010-04-18 15:45:21 CDT (-0400)

My criticism was of the papers. Unlikely I was asked to moderate them before publication.

It does seem to me that the British especially, accept any fungal relationship as bad.

Most Morchella are considered saprophytic. So it was with great interest that I listened to Nancy Smith Weber a few years ago talking about at least one species of Morchella which apparently forms mycorrhiza in certain circumstances. For more on Morchella cultivation, see Stamets’and Chilton’s Mushroom Cultivator, and Stamets’ Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms.

At least here in Oregon, the most commonly found morels are saprotrophic. Obviously Morchella is different from Pleurotus, though. I have never found Pleurotus growing in a recent burn or clear-cut.

Some of our forest fires burn deep and sterilize soils for long periods. It takes many months or even several years for some sites to have any sort of regeneration. That’s why morels are so interesting: few saprophytes can survive on charcoal, ash or recent lava flows. The succession of organisms on these sites are instructive, in that they may mimic the first life coming out of oceans.

If you disagree with those papers
By: Paul Derbyshire (Twizzler)
2010-04-18 14:15:50 CDT (-0400)

take it up with their authors; not me.

If MR fungi generally cannot grow on burnt or otherwise cleared ground, then given the penchant for some morels to grow on burnt and disturbed ground one must question the received wisdom that all morels are MR. If some are saprotrophic, that puts them squarely in the same category as P. ostreatus as far as nutrition is concerned.

As for burnt ground lacking microorganisms, I expect that would be a very temporary state of affairs immediately after the fire. All kinds of things would move in on the buffet of free nutrients (carbon, minerals). The first of these would have to be hardy enough to withstand some UV exposure and able to cope with significant imbalances in the nutrient availability. Whatever saprobes moved in on this banquet, predators would soon move in on them. Nematodes are a not-implausible predator.

Has any study been done on the microbiology of burned and otherwise-disturbed soils at various times after the disturbance? “Micro-succession” or whatever you might call it?

Read links as well.
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2010-04-18 06:29:27 CDT (-0400)

I’m concerned about especially British references to mycorrhizae being “infection” in your first citation. Seems mycophobic to me. Mycorrhizal symbiotic relationships with plants allow for plant survival in nutrient-poor soils and deserts, where plants would likely not survive without them. In the fossil record, mycorrhizal fungi are first known from the Devonian Age, or Age of Fishes, which is also the time period when plants made the first leap from oceans to colonizing land. The earliest fossil fungi are known as Glomites, and come from an apparent association with club mosses from British Columbia, Canada siltstones.

Regarding the second citation, there are other factors during and after fire. Burnt soil is much hotter for several years until new growth colonizes the area. More direct sunlight reaches the soil. The late Dr. William Dennison told me many, if not most mycorrhizal fungi can die when exposed to direct sunlight. He posited that was a good reason for so many tree species in Oregon having mycorrhizal relationships, as trees keep soils cooler. Tree canopy would be a survival mechanism for such photosensitive fungi.

Morels are known to grow fastest at 77 degrees F. Charcoal and wood ash both absorb more light energy than plants do. Soil pH can also be affected. Might be a relationship in both cases.

Nematodes are known consumers mycelium of mycorrhizal and saprophytic fungi. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria are symbiotic with mycorrhizal fungi, making nematode consumption by mycorrhizal fungi a tenuous requirement. If mycorrhizal fungi needed additional N I’d think it would be readily available, since they are known to transport quantities of it from the root nodes to their host plants.

The most common nematode-consuming fungi that I know of, Pleurotus ostreatus, is never mycorrhizal to my knowledge.

There are relatively few mycorrhizal fungi associated with wood. One group, Hydnotrya truffles, are so commonly associated with larger woody debris they are also known as “Wood truffles.” There is also a known relationship between Hydnotrya and the small mammals which assist in their dispersal, such as California Red-backed voles. Hydnotrya are often food for the voles, and larger woody debris are habitat for voles. Hydnotrya colonize degraded and degrading wood as a source of newly-released nutrients and water, especially on thin soils often associated with serpentine (soapstone). In California serpentine is often found along major fault zones, such as the San Andreas Fault and others. Trinity County has quite a few fault zones as I recall.

It would be most interesting to learn of Morchella also being mycorrhizal with Arbutus in such conditions.

Have read the links
By: Irene Andersson (irenea)
2010-04-18 03:34:44 CDT (-0400)

Paul, they do not explain the particular fruiting in burnt areas. On the contrary, burnt ground and wood is very likely sterilized from most kinds of microorganisms, so the morel strategy ought to be another than eating nematodes.

Mushrooms and nematodes have a long history of war between them, to eat or be eaten. Lots of different strategies have developed through the years, but it is probably more common that nematodes eat mushrooms than the other way around.
In this case I beleive that fires give the morels a clean ground and a chance to create fruitbodies without the threat from humus-loving nematodes or bacteria.

Nematode hunting fungi
By: Paul Derbyshire (Twizzler)
2010-04-17 12:37:21 CDT (-0400)


This first shows that some mycorrhizal fungi interact with nematodes. It seems they may actually enable some while attacking or even being attacked by others.


This one indicates that wood decay and mycorrhizal mushrooms seem to use a variety of nitrogen sources, including nematodes, bacteria, other fungi, and even bugs.

If the morels here are breaking down black carbon after a fire, that’s similar to wood decay in terms of having a nitrogen problem, if not even worse, and the wood decay fungi particularly seem to be proven to sometimes use nematodes. But the article says it’s likely MR fungi use this, among other, strategies to acquire nitrogen too.

By: Irene Andersson (irenea)
2010-04-17 04:45:02 CDT (-0400)

I have noticed that you always pay attention to relevant details about the obses, but you’re one of the few ;-)

Paul, prolific fruiting after a fire could still have something to do with nematodes and other microorganisms. That they are killed by the fire, and morels and other mushrooms (several other ascos like burnt sites) can develop instead of being destroyed by them – and somehow also get access to nitrogen from dead nematodes..?

The most important advice for cultivation of Gyromitra (on buried newspaper covered with sand), is to avoid contact with humus, because it contains microorganisms that will destroy the mycelium.

Same association here…
By: RW Rockwell (Fungal Cowboy)
2010-04-17 00:22:59 CDT (-0400)

All morels I’m finding here in Trinity Co. are directly associated with stands of madrone burned in 2008 fires. Further, they’re nearly all on northeast facing, fairly steep slopes – perhaps because these locations offer the coolest ground temps for mycelia during summer’s sweltering 100 degree temps here. Nice thing is that this narrows down my search parameters.

By: Erin Page Blanchard (CureCat)
2010-04-16 22:19:16 CDT (-0400)

Tuberale, these are fire morels. They grew prolifically, and almost exclusively with burned Madrone. Oh, and according to Alan, they were far more abundant last Spring (first year after the burn) than this Spring.

Irene, regarding attention to detail, I can only speak for myself, and I usually pay attention, and pay closest attention to mushrooms I want to find more of. This includes edible mushrooms, but also interesting inedible mushrooms that I want to study more. Especially little brown mushrooms with medium to dark spores.
There is apparently heightened interest in these Morchella, and I chimed in because I was there a year ago and there were not too many other interesting mushrooms to distract my attention at the time… There was an interesting Gyromitra, and a Psathyrella, and a Garter Snake (Thamnophis).. Not a whole lot else.

I heard some thing
By: Johannes Harnisch (Johann Harnisch)
2010-04-16 15:44:58 CDT (-0400)

about plants being able to use nitrogen better with the presence of carbon…(don’t know it this comment helps though)

Nematodes and Morchella
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2010-04-16 13:38:10 CDT (-0400)

Morchella do not hunt nematodes that I am aware of. Paul posits that MR fungi (mycorrhizal, maybe?) capture nematodes. Not that I know of. Mycorrhizal fungi are known to associate with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, especially with members of the Legumaceae. I’m with you, Irene. I only know of a few species of fungi which actively trap Nematodes to supplement nitrogen uptake: Pleurotus is perhaps among the best studied.

By: Irene Andersson (irenea)
2010-04-16 13:26:32 CDT (-0400)

do you have any reference to that – all fungi nourishing on nematodes?
I’ve heard of Hohenbuehelia, Pleurotus, Conocybe, Coprinus and some corticioid fungi doing that, others taking advantage of bacteria to get the nitrogen.
I’m curious of this, because black carbon is particularly hard to break down.

I don’t know about morels specifically
By: Paul Derbyshire (Twizzler)
2010-04-16 12:48:11 CDT (-0400)

but it’s widely thought that all MR fungi noose nematodes as a way of acquiring nitrogen; MR hosts share mainly sugars with them, and sugars have C, H, and O, but no N.

By: Irene Andersson (irenea)
2010-04-16 12:14:29 CDT (-0400)

Interesting, are morels known to be nematode hunters – and are there particular nematodes on burnt ground?

Btw, I’m amazed how you guys on this site are so good at looking at the habitats, possible hosts and living conditions – but particularly when it comes to morels, rarely other mushrooms… I wonder why?

By: Paul Derbyshire (Twizzler)
2010-04-16 11:19:07 CDT (-0400)

Could it perhaps be a particularly good nematode hunter? That would get it the nitrogen it would need to metabolize all that carbon.

Many mycorrhizal species are species specific.
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2010-04-15 14:37:58 CDT (-0400)

Putting spores on a similar species may not work: may require being A. menziesii.

Not sure how necessary fire would be if species is mycorrhizal: sclerotia react more to abundant rainfall and soil disturbance. But you are right that at least one species of Morchella grows most rapidly after fire: M. angusticeps. That species may be reacting to a favorable food supply. Few fungi like charcoal. M. angusticeps is one of the few.

You’re last statement of the most prolific fruiting being in a pure stand of madrone is most telling. Unless the fungus is mycorrhizal with a common shrub to your area, A. menziesii seems likely.

By: Erin Page Blanchard (CureCat)
2010-04-15 14:18:38 CDT (-0400)

Yeah, I actually did try dumping some of the wash water and stem bases near some Arbutus unedo, the Strawberry Fruit Tree, a different species from Madrone, A. menziesii. Haven’t checked up on it this year… But I also cannot replicate the fruiting conditions (i.e. torch the area).

Anyway, these aren’t growing with Pine, they are definitely growing with Madrone. We spent quite a while last year debating over which tree it is growing with, until we found a grove of only Madrone and they fruited there most prolifically.

Some Morchella
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2010-04-15 06:39:03 CDT (-0400)

can apparently by mycorrhizal, according to Nancy Smith Weber. They could be associated with Pinus sps., which as this post has already noted, is in close proximity. Mycorrhizal species are known to fruit some distance from their host trees, and frequently respond to natural stress by fruiting. Because Morchella forms sclerotia which can last many years before producing sporocarps, I’m not certain other host species can be automtically ruled out. Fortunately, Morchella is a relatively easy fungus to grow. Try blending a fresh sporocarp in a food processor on high for several minutes in 2 cups of water. Dilute the resulting slurry in a gallon of water, and spread this slurry over a nearby Arbutus stand which has not produced Morchella to your knowledge. If the newly-inoculated stand produces Morchella in a year or two (or five) the possibility for both cultivation and mycorrhizal association becomes more certain. At least in my mind.

By: Erin Page Blanchard (CureCat)
2010-04-15 04:35:28 CDT (-0400)

I looked into this species last year, and could not find mention of a single species associating with Arbutus of any kind… I think this may be undescribed.

I’d like to see microscopy.
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2010-04-14 20:06:28 CDT (-0400)

If associated with madrone, then I think could be a separate species. We have madrone here in OR, but I’ve never found much associated with it. Intriquing concept, though.

By: Alan Rockefeller (Alan Rockefeller)
2010-04-14 16:18:36 CDT (-0400)

It is a knobcone pine cone in the background, however all the morels were growing with Madrone, not pine. I’ll do some microscopy on these morels if anyone thinks that will help ID it.

someday, we’ll just use our “tricorders” to ID morels to sp…
By: Debbie Viess (amanitarita)
2010-04-13 20:09:14 CDT (-0400)

until then, I call ’em all edible.

yes it’s knobcone
By: Christian (Christian Schwarz)
2010-04-13 19:26:48 CDT (-0400)

Only knobcone and ponderosa are common in SC.
This kind of fire is good for our senescing knobcones.

Is that Knobcone pine
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2010-04-13 19:07:26 CDT (-0400)

in the background of 2 photos?

M. angusticeps?
By: Daniel B. Wheeler (Tuberale)
2010-04-13 19:06:34 CDT (-0400)

Very young? Usually much darker colored, but if very fresh (and tender) your observation of fruiting on a recent burn site certainly is suggestive, at least to me.

Created: 2010-04-11 17:57:55 CDT (-0400)
Last modified: 2016-04-07 12:36:46 CDT (-0400)
Viewed: 760 times, last viewed: 2017-12-20 11:48:47 CST (-0500)
Show Log