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Real Morel vs False Morel & 4 Poisonous Morel Look Alikes

Real Morel Vs False Morel And Poisonous Look Alikes

Easily tell the Real Morel from the False Morel by learning a few simple tricks to identify the top 4 poisonous Morel look alikes.

While there are over 80 different species of the Morchella clade (Morel) you can easily come into contact with many different looking Morels while out foraging.  This can seem confusing to the beginning Morel mushroom hunter.

No need to worry though…

After reading this article you will be able to easily tell the difference between a true morel and a false morel.  The good news is that it is actually really easy to tell the difference once you know what to look for.

The 2 major defining characteristics to tell the different between a real morel and a false morel is:

  1. It is completely hollow on the inside.
  2. It has a pitted, sponge like cap.

Now let’s take a look at the true morel and then we will look at the 4 false morel mushroom look alikes that can be confused with the real morel.  The true morel vs false morel…

Real Morel

The real or true morel is a true delicacy and is a choice edible mushroom that can sell for $20 fresh by the pound during the spring season.  Let’s see what it looks like…

1) Morel (Morchella)


One of the most popular morels is the Morchella esculenta (AKA Yellow Morel).  The true Morel will have pitted honey-comb like ridges to an almost sponge like cap and will be completely hollow on the inside like in the picture above.

It can come in a variety of colors to include:

  1. Yellow
  2. Tan
  3. Grey
  4. Grey-black
  5. Olive-ish

You will also notice their cap is attached to the stem at the base of the cap while being completely hollow from stem to cap.  You will also typically find them to be longer rather than they are wide.

To learn more about identifying the top 3 types of Morel mushrooms (black morels, yellow morels and half-free morels), then check out another article we wrote here:

types of morel mushrooms

Now let’s look take a look at the 4 poisonous false morels…

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4 Poisonous False Morels

There are 4 poisonous false morels that you need to be aware of when you go hunting for morels.  Let’s start it off with the early false morel…

1)  Early False Morel (Verpa Bohemica)

verpa bohemica

You’ll notice the edge of its helmet-like cap hanging freely over the stem, much like the cap of a half-free morel. While some people eat the half-free morel without problem, this one is poisonous and you do not want to eat it because it contains the same toxin found in the deadly false morel called gyromitrin.

It does contain smaller amounts of this toxin, however because it is present it can cause:

  1. Nausea
  2. Stomach cramps
  3. Diarrhea

But if consumed in large amounts could cause:

  1. Convulsions
  2. Jaundice
  3. Coma
  4. Death

While some people have collected it and consumed it without problem, others have suffered illness after consuming it.

They have a smooth and sometimes wrinkled, brown cap which hangs over their stems. A cottony tissue fills the stem’s interior which doesn’t completely appear hollow as with all other true morels.  However, when it ages it may get hollow looking.

It gets the name of ‘Early False Morel’ because it will typically start to grow a week or two before the time of year that real morels start to grow in Spring.

The cap of the verpa could be confused with the cap of the half-free morel however if you look at the picture below you will see the verpa bohemica’s cap sits like an umbrella while the half free still resembles the hollow center of the true morel’s cap while still having a little bit hanging over at the stem.

verpa bohemica vs half free morel

Now let’s take a look at the other verpa, the verpa conica…

2)  Bell Morel (Verpa Conica)

verpa conica

This one is similar to the verpa bohemica in that the cap will sit like an umbrella shown in the picture compared to the half-free morel previously.

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The main difference with this on is that it MAY BE hollow on the inside even when young where as the verpa bohemica has the cottony material on the inside while young.

2 other distinguishing characteristics of this one are:

  1. That cap is typically smaller with a much longer stem.
  2. The cap wont have the pitted honey-comb appearance of the true morel.

The cap’s outer appearance will actually resemble that more of the style cap of the deadly false morel.

Little information is available on whether this one is edible however I would take precaution since it is a verpa and the other verpas are shown to have small amounts of toxin gyromitrin.

Now let’s take a look at the deadly false morel…

3)  Deadly False Morel (Gyromitra Esculenta)

Gyromitra Esculenta

The Gryomitra genus has over 15 different gyromitra species with the gryomitra esculenta being the most popular however the gyromitra caroliniana is popular in the United States.  This is one mushroom that is VERY poisonous and contains the toxin gyromitrin.  When eaten will cause the following within a few hours:

  1. Vomiting
  2. Diarrhea

Later, you will experience:

  1. Dizziness
  2. Lethargy
  3. Headaches

Eventually leading to coma and death after 5-7 days!

Some people claim that if you cook these that they can turn into an edible mushroom however it’s not 100% confirmed if that actually removes all the toxins.

The biggest way to know if you come across the Gyromitra Esculenta is they are not hollow on the inside when cut in half (like in the picture above).

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Now, let’s take a look at the stinkhorn…

4)  Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)

Phallus impudicus stinkhorn

** The stinkhorn is NOT poisonous but sure looks like it should be when it is covered in slime…So I put it under this category **

The Stinkhorn morel is also another false variety, but one you may not have to worry too much about. This is because they appear in the fall and tend to have a distinctive, foul-smelling slime covering the cap. These goo-covered morel look-alikes attract insects & bugs and some mushroom hunters collect their eggs and cook them up as novelties.

stinkhorn morel

After the flies eat all the slime that covers the cap it will actually have a spongy appearance and will resemble that (somewhat) of a true Morel.  The easiest way to identify this one is by the bad smell.

Despite it’s foul order it is not poisonous and many people in France and Germany choose to eat them.  I chose to add it to this list because based on the way it looks and smells you would sure think it was poisonous…but it’s not.


Now you should be able to easily tell the difference between the real morel vs false morel.  You can see that it is very easy to distinguish the true morel from it’s look alikes.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when hunting for the Morel is that:

  1. It will be 100% hollow on the inside to include the cap all the way down the stem.
  2. It will have a pitted honey-comb type of cap that does NOT sit like an umbrella on the stem.

If it doesn’t have these things then you do NOT want to eat them because you could literally be dead by the next week if you do.

Be sure to check out our other article on how to identify the top 3 types of Morel mushrooms as well as our article on tips to help you hunt them in the wild like a pro.

Thanks for reading and please share if you thought it was useful!

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Real Morel vs False Morel



Curative Mushrooms has to post the standard FDA Disclaimer…The statements made regarding medicinal mushrooms have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. Curative Mushrooms is not making claims intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from healthcare practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before consuming the medicinal mushrooms. The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.


This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Curative Mushrooms nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.



Always looking for ways to improve the health of myself and my family led me to the discovery of medicinal mushrooms and the numerous health benefits they have on the body. My mission is to spread this knowledge and help as many people as possible.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Many people have successfully eaten the deadly false morel, though you probably shouldn’t , for two main reasons. First, it is in HOW you prepare them. High heat breaks down (at least partially) gyromitrin (the toxin in the false morel). The cooking pan or skillet must be open (no lid as the toxin will go back in). The kitchen or prep area must be well ventilated or you can actually poison Yourself from the cooking vapors! Drying the mushrooms can also help reduce the toxins, but parboiling and rinsing the dried mushrooms 3x in clean water is the prescribed method for removal of the gyromitrin. Next is your general health and immune system. Many people have more of an allergic reaction to gyromitrin as is evident by spikes in histamine levels of those presenting poisoning. Even persons whom have safely eaten deadly false morels for years can suddenly have a sudden reaction to gyromitrin. With this is mind, it is probably best to avoid this mushroom. I’ve personally eaten them several times in my life, but have avoided them for several years now as I’m more careful about my health than I was in my youth. These mushrooms are actually considered a delicacy in some Scandinavian countries, but must be sold with a warning label and preparation instructions. My opinion is that they can be rendered safer, but never truly safe. You may enjoy them for years, but you or someone you care about could be poisoned. It’s not worth the risk

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