Karstenia 13: 56. 1973.
Common Name: snow mushroom
Possible synonyms: Gyromitra gigas (Krombh.) Cooke; Helvella gigas Krombholz
Cap 5-10 cm broad, 4.0-7.0 cm tall, fertile surface convoluted, folded, rarely lobed; margin irregular, incurved, closely pressed or fused to the stipe; surface yellowish-brown, hazel-brown, to dull reddish-brown in age; sterile undersurface whitish; context thin, 1.0-2.0 mm thick, brittle; odor and taste not distinctive.
Stipe short, stout, 2.0-8.0 cm tall, 3.0-7.0 cm thick; surface whitish, grooved to folded, the latter manifested in cross-section by longitudinal passages.
Spores 25.0-35.0 x 12.0-16.0 µm, elliptical, smooth, some with thickened ends (apiculi), possessing a single, large central oil droplet.
Solitary, scattered, to gregarious in soil, humus, occasionally with rotting wood, under conifers, near melting snowbanks; found at higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada and presumably also Coast Range; fruiting during the spring.
Edible and very good, but see comments under Gyromitra esculenta
Gyromitra montana, commonly known as 'snow mushroom', is identified by its short, stocky stature and convoluted cap with a margin that tends to remain pressed against the stipe. Gyromitra esculenta and Gyromitra infula are similar, but more erect species. The former has a lobed, wrinkled cap at maturity, while the latter has a lobed, wavy cap. Though easily recognized, at least in California, Gyromitra montana is part of a confusing species complex. See Weber (1988) for a discussion of the taxonomic difficulties. An example is the closely related and almost indistinguishable, Gyromitra gigas, separated by slight microscopic differences. In Gyromitra gigas, the size of the ornamentation on the spore ends (apiculi) is said by some authors to be 1-2 microns larger, than that of G. montana. If these differences are not significant, then Gyromitra montana would be a synonym of G. gigas. A molecular study is needed to help clarify this situation.
Abbott, S.O. & Currah, R.S. (1997). The Helvellaceae: Systematic revision and occurrence in northern and northwestern North America. Mycotaxon 62: 1-125.
Ammirati, J.F., Traquair, J.A. & Horgen, P.A. (1985). Poisonous Mushrooms of the Northern United States and Canada. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, MN. 396 p.
Desjardin, D.E., Wood, M.G. & Stevens, F.A. (2015). California Mushrooms: The Comprehensive Identification Guide. Timber Press: Portland, OR. 560 p.
Harmaja, H. (1973). Amendments of the limits of the genera Gyromitra and Pseudorhizina, with the description of a new species, Gyromitra montana. Karstenia 13: 48-58.
Smith, A.H. (1949). Mushrooms in their Natural Habitats. Sawyer's Inc: Portland, OR. 626 p.
Tylutki, E.E. (1979). Mushrooms of Idaho and the Pacific Northwest: Discomycetes. University of Idaho Press: Moscow, ID. 133 p.
Weber, N.S. (1988). A Morel Hunter's companion. Two Penninsula Press: Lansing, MI. 288 p.