Observation 66563: Morchella Dill. ex Pers.

When: 2010-05-30

Collection location: Chelan Co., Washington, USA [Click for map]

Who: BlueCanoe

No specimen available

One of the “black” morel species of the Pacific Northwest. Found in coniferous forest containing Pinus, Pseudotsuga, and Abies. No (recent) fire disturbance.

Species Lists


Location overview

Proposed Names

58% (2)
Recognized by sight
1% (2)
Used references: lighter color when young, unburned conifer forest in the PNW. Kuo et al., 2012, Taxonomic revision of true morels (Morchella) in Canada and the United States
28% (1)
Used references: Kuo et al. 2012 – simple (non-lacunose) stipe, unburned conifer forest

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Eye3 = Observer’s choice
Eyes3 = Current consensus


Add Comment
cap attachment
By: BlueCanoe
2012-04-12 19:44:56 CDT (-0400)

Where the cap meets the stipe, there is an upwards indentation (they call it a sinus) on M. frustrata, whereas M. esculentoides transitions more smoothly from cap to stipe. They say that sinus is generally found on all North American elata-clade morels (although they mention a weak sinus on M. diminutiva, too).

a good differentiator
By: Danny Newman (myxomop)
2012-04-12 19:28:46 CDT (-0400)

between what looks like only two options for “Western Blondes/Yellows,” M. esculentoides and M. frustrata, is a conical hymenophore featuring vertically arranged pits in the latter, compared to a blunter hymenophore with more irregular pit arrangement in the former. Also, M. esculentoides’ host ecology is primarily hardwoods with “occasional” conifer relationships, whereas M. frustrata shows (equal?) affinity for Arbutus menziesii, Quercus spp., Pseudotsuga menziesii, Pinus ponderosa, Pinus lambertiana and Abies concolor.

M. frustrata in the key
By: BlueCanoe
2012-04-12 19:22:58 CDT (-0400)

Their species description uses yellow and white, while their key requires you to select pale brown. A little flexibility in the interpretation of color words is required in order to make the key consistent with the species descriptions. Based on my own (relatively limited) experience with morels, I like the colors in the species descriptions better.

so am i
By: Danny Newman (myxomop)
2012-04-12 19:09:47 CDT (-0400)

on a number of points, including those that you raise, Douglas. I think I’ve even found a few discrepancies between the article’s color photo appendix and the descriptions of the species they correspond to, namely with respect to M. snyderi ridges being described as

pale yellowish, becoming pale tan, then grayish brown with maturity and darkening to nearly black when dried.

The corresponding photo shows some considerably darker ridge areas, and on visibly fresh material.

as for the “Western Blonde”/“Western Yellow”, I’ve gone through every permutation of key choices I can think of for a decidedly yellow/blonde sp. in western NA, and come up with only M. esculentoides. I leave it to those with more tenure in Western US morel collection/observation to determine whether or not that taxon — or any single taxon, for that matter — can apply to all colloquially named “Western Blonde/Yellow” morels.

The key may not draw a hard line in the sand between incontrovertibly “blonde/yellow” and “black,” but it does differentiate based on pigmentation, specifically that of pits and/or ridges. The first couplet addresses color and only color. Does it faithfully separate spp. given the degree of color/pigmentation intergradation present in Morchella FBs? Not perfectly. We’re seeing that right here in this ob.

All in all, it’s a new document and a new mindset, both of which need breaking in.

edit: correction: M. frustrata is another key destination using “Western Blonde/Yellow” traits, arrived at by choosing

notable sinus


without notable sinus.

indeed, the description mentions that Morchella frustrata

is likely the same as the morel informally designated the “mountain blond morel” (Pilz et al. 2004, 2007).

By: BlueCanoe
2012-04-12 19:06:14 CDT (-0400)

I agree that their key can be a little confusing. I think they’re trying to accommodate the variation in color of the ridges from young to old in M. tomentosa (darker to lighter) and M. snyderi (lighter to darker), but it does make the black/yellow phylogenetic split less obvious in the key.

In the species description of M. snyderi, Kuo and Methven describe the ridges as “pale yellowish, becoming pale tan, then grayish brown with maturity and darkening to nearly black when dried”. I see these younger morels in this observation more in the tan-to-brown range. In the past, I’ve been hunting morels primarily for the table, and so I haven’t focused on the youngest and smallest specimens. This observation is probably “middle-aged” and so moderately colored. I would like to see a photo of what the authors mean by “pale yellowish”, that seems lighter than I find most of my morels.

As for alternatives, the ridges on M. brunnea are “dark brown to nearly black” throughout its life, which is darker than the tan-to-brown here. On the other hand, M. frustrata is “pale yellowish to nearly whitish when young, becoming pale tan with maturity” which is too light.

Hopefully this spring I can find some good ranges of ages, sizes, and colors and produce some more illustrative observations.

Little confused…
By: Douglas Smith (douglas)
2012-04-12 18:17:33 CDT (-0400)

I’m a little confused about how to use their key there. There seems to be a clear split between “yellow” morels and “black” morels in the molecular work. But then they key doesn’t seem to say anything about that? It is all about the quality of the ridges? Where would the western “yellow” morel fit in this key?

I don’t think you have a photo here of the “pale yellowish” ridges, which are sited in M. snyderi.

By: Danny Newman (myxomop)
2012-04-12 17:43:50 CDT (-0400)

once ephitets can be applied MO-side with confidence, it should be very interesting to see and compare these species en masse with lots of photographs and data on each. sure, some spp. are, for all intents and purposes, macroscopically identical (every eastern M. esculentoides proposal gets a requisite M. cryptica one as well), but for those more easy to differentiate by eyeballing, this site will be an even more valuable resource than it already is.

on with the morelaganza.

By: BlueCanoe
2012-04-12 17:26:33 CDT (-0400)

Reading the new paper and looking through my observations, I think all my mountain non-burned conifer morels here in the Washington Cascades are probably M. snyderi. However, in naming and voting I’m trying to be somewhat conservative and base my votes on the actual photos since this stuff is so new and there is more uncertainty regarding the distribution and ecology of M. brunnea, as well as “Mel-8” (which the Kuo paper mentions but doesn’t describe). So I voted some of my observations with a lower confidence, and tried to list only the traits observable in the photos. If you’re less confident than I am, that’s fine and the whole point of a taxonomy-by-popular-vote system I guess. I definitely think that M. snyderi is not one of the “slam dunk” morels in terms of macroscopic ID, at least not yet with what we currently know and don’t know.

By: Danny Newman (myxomop)
2012-04-12 16:50:25 CDT (-0400)

an awfully un-lacunose stipe for M. snyderi, don’t you think? you even left that character out of the comments for your name proposal ;)

edit: I see that this is a trait that (sometimes) occurs at maturity. these are too young to tell…

Created: 2011-04-29 13:43:47 CDT (-0400)
Last modified: 2012-06-04 00:57:50 CDT (-0400)
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