Sunday, 10 April 2011

Morels at Oxwich

I'd been told that morels, one of the few fungi that appear in spring were out at Oxwich. I've never seen morels so a trip was necessary. I didn't find many but they are out in numbers and I did find a few which was satisfying enough.

Morels belong to a division of the fungi world called 'ascomycetes'. Unlike mushrooms that drop spores from gills or tubes (basidiomycetes), ascomycetes shoot spores away from their outer surface. This outer surface is covered in sacks, called asci which contain the spores.

When they are ripe and the mushroom is touched or blown by the wind they expel their spores in a way that resembles a fine puff of smoke. Changes in temperature can also cause the expulsion, something I've witnessed in a different member of the ascomycetes; Helvella crispa/White Saddle.

Below is Morchella esculenta/Morel

Other ascomycetes include Helvella/Saddles and Plicaria /Cup fungi..  Below is Plicaria endocarpoides found at Kilvey Hill.

Helvella crispa/White saddle. The slight resemblance to morels can be seen.

Morels are very easy to identify due to their irregular, honeycombed cap that's ridged and interwoven. The cap is fused to the stem which also irregular. The whole mushroom is hollow. They can be quite large too, reaching up to 20cms in height and generally tend to be solitary however they can be found in small groups.
They are associated with calcereous (chalky) soils yet they can also be found in open deciduous woodland and waste ground. The examples below were found in sandy scrub at Oxwich.

Morels are excellent edible mushrooms but they must be cooked. Eaten raw they can cause stomach upsets.

I also came across some young Hypoxylon fragiforme/Beech Woodwart. At this young stage they are a salmon pink colour.

At Oxwich

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