Overview Of The Fungi, Gyromitra Esculenta

The fungi, Gyromitra esculenta, is a very complex and dangerous mushroom in the phyla Ascomycota. The class is Pezizomycetes, the order Pezizales, and the mushroom Gyromitra esculenta is in the family Discinaceae. This false morel is known for its brain shaped cap and reaching 3-12 cm wide and 4-8 centimeters high. For more identification morphology, the cap has a range of shades from pink to a deep red color with the flesh being thin and brittle, hanging free form the stem. The shape of the cap is convex, and the folds in the cap allow for more surface for the asci to form. The spores are smoothed, ellipsoid, reddish- orange and form a yellowish spore print.

Gyromitra esculenta can be found in various areas in the northern hemisphere throughout Europe, Asia and in America, it is most commonly found in the Midwest, Pacific Northeast and, the Rockies. It grows in the spring and summer time in areas of moderate temperatures and moisture. They are most abundantly found in the forest with soil rich with silica but can also grow on a dead or decaying matter and grow in the spring and summer. The life cycle of the Gyromitra esculenta follows the familiar Ascomycota life cycle and forms an apothecium ascocarp. The most unique characteristic of Gyromitra esculenta is that it is incredibly toxic and can lead to death in extreme cases. The toxic agent, gyromitrin is hydrolyzed into the compound monomethylhydrazine (MMH), which will cause many severe symptoms if the mushroom is consumed, or if the fumes are inhaled when cooking it. For brave people who want to try this dangerous mushroom, the first thing to know is they must cook it if they want to stay alive.

The raw mushroom has too many toxins and it needs to be parboiled to remove most of the toxins. If the mushrooms are dried before cooking them, then there is a better chance of removing more toxins. The toxin causes the body not to be able to break down food, seizures, and irritation dealing with the mucous membrane lining the digestive tract. Some symptoms include feeling bloating, vomiting, muscle cramps, diarrhea and in very severe cases, seizures and death. These symptoms arise between 6-12 hours after consumption are caused by an imbalance in fluids and electrolytes. If a patient is given enough fluids and administered vitamin B6, the patient will have a better chance of survival. Other characteristics of this mushroom include being one of the significant false mushrooms that caused poisoning in Poland during World War II and the toxin, gyromitrin, is commonly found in rocket fuel.

Dealing with Gyromitra esculenta being a false morel, pickers need to know if they are picking either true or false morels. True morels caps are uniformly shaped, covered in pits and ridges, and the cap is directly attached to the stem. While in false morels, their cap is irregularly shaped with wavy lobes and the cap isn’t attached directly to the stem, it hangs more freely. When slicing the mushrooms in half, a true morel will be hollow while a false morel isn’t hollow and filled with white cotton-like fibers. It’s important to know the differences because true morels are edible while false morels are toxic. When looking at the importance of Gyromitra esculenta, they have ecological, social and economic importance. Ecologically, they mycorrhizae with the roots of trees and saprotrophic feeding of decomposing materials. Socially, they are toxic, so if an animal survives after eating the mushroom, they won’t go back to it because the mushroom most likely made them sick. This acts a defense mechanism for the mushroom.

Lastly, economically they are eaten in areas like Finland, Scandinavia, and Russia and cost about 11.75 per kilogram. In areas that sell these mushrooms, they set up warning signs to customers notifying them of the dangerous toxins in the mushrooms.

13 January 2020
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