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MORCHELLA

Morchella, the true morels, is a genus of edible sac fungi closely related to anatomically simpler cup fungi in the order Pezizales (division Ascomycota). These distinctive fungi have a honeycomb appearance, due to the network of ridges with pits composing their cap. Morels are prized by gourmet cooks, particularly in French cuisine. Due to difficulties in cultivation, commercial harvesting of wild morels has become a multimillion-dollar industry in the temperate Northern Hemisphere, in particular North America, Turkey, China, the Himalayas, India, and Pakistan, where these highly prized fungi are found in abundance.

 

Typified by Morchella esculenta in 1794, the genus has been the source of considerable taxonomical controversy throughout the years, mostly with regard to the number of species involved, with some mycologists recognising as few as three species and others over thirty. Current molecular phylogenetics suggest there might be over seventy species of Morchella worldwide, most of them exhibiting high continental endemism and provincialism.

 

The genus is currently the focus of extensive phylogenetic, biogeographical, taxonomical and nomenclatural studies, and several new species have been described from Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Israel, North America, Spain and Turkey.

 

 

234px-Morchella_conica_1_beentree

Species

 

About 80 species of Morchella were described until the turn of the century (http://www.indexfungorum.org/), a number of which were later shown to be illegitimate or synonyms. As molecular tools became widely available in the new millennium, a revived interest in the genus commenced and several new species were proposed. In 2008 Kuo described Morchella tomentosa from burned coniferous forests in western North America. In 2010 Işiloğlu and colleagues described Morchella anatolica, a basal species from Turkey later shown to be sister to Morchella rufobrunnea. A study by Clowez described over 20 new species in 2012.