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The Half-Free Morel

Morchella punctipes

The half-free morel (Morchella punctipes) is the cause of a lot of confusion in the mushroom hunting community, especially for beginners. Although it is easily confused with a Morchella look-a-like called a Verpa (Verpa bohemica) it is in fact a true species of Morchella and perfectly edible. As with any mushroom, if it is your first time consuming them start with a little bit. You can still be allergic to this mushroom as with any of the morels.

In the following photo you will see a cross section of the half-free. It gets its name due to the way the stipe attaches halfway up to the top of the cap. You can see this clearly here and also note that the stem is completely hollow. Half-Free morels also have the classic pits in the cap that look carved out, versus the wrinkled up cap you will see on a Verpa.

Note the extra space at the top after the stem connects half way inside the cap. A Verpa stem will connect all the way at the top and have a cottony pith inside the stem.

Now let’s take a look at the Verpa bohemica, the most common morel look-a-like. Verpas may fool you from a distance but after studying a few you will quickly be able to distinguish the difference easily. Notice this verpa below, the cap is very wrinkled, unlike the defined, carved pits that a true morchella has.

Verpa bohemica a Morchella look-a-like

Now let’s take a look at a cross section of a verpa. Notice how the cap connects to the step all the way at the top. Also, notice the stem is not hollow.

Verpa bohemica

I hope this helps you identify a good edible from a morel look-a-like which is still listed as edible with caution. New studies are actually showing more people have been sickened by morels than those that have been sickened by Verpas. Personally I leave the Verpas where I see them but I will pick and enjoy all of the Half-Frees that I can!

Happy Hunting!