Citizen Science Alert - Gyromitrin Mycotoxin

Dear Mycophiles,

I am conducting research on the production of gyromitrin in false morels and related mushrooms in the family Discinaceae. Some of you may already be familiar with this project or have even sent specimens to me – thank you! This post is meant to ask for your assistance in acquiring more specimens and to provide a few updates on the project.

Gyromitrin is a mycotoxin produced most famously by Gyromitra esculenta, a deadly poisonous mushroom that is consumed as a delicacy in Scandinavia (after being properly prepared to remove most if not all the gyromitrin). We actually have no idea how gyromitrin is biosynthesized, how it evolved in false morels, or even what other species contain gyromitrin (and therefore might be safe to consume or best avoided). I’m attempting to answer some of these questions for my PhD research!

If you were able and willing, I’d greatly appreciate donations of fungal specimens in the family Discinaceae* from the genera Gyromitra, Discina, and Hydnotrya. In the past, I welcomed any fungi from Discinaceae, Morchellaceae, and Helvellaceae, but now we are just focusing on Discinaceae. Also in the past, I requested frozen specimens. As many of you predicted with alarm, that was nasty. Currently, we’d just like dried specimens because we found that gyromitrin is detectable in dried specimens. So, please be on the lookout for these fungi. If you would like to donate any that you find for this project, a few things need to happen for the specimen to be usable:

  1. The fresh specimen needs to be documented with photographs and data uploaded to Mushroom Observer or iNaturalist with, at a minimum, GPS coordinates. Further data on habitat, surrounding vegetation, etc. add value to the collection. If you are new to this, please read more about collecting and documenting mushrooms here:
  2. The specimen needs to be completely dried, packed into some bag or envelope, and labelled with the Mushroom Observer or iNaturalist number, along with whatever other information you’d like to physically include. A note on drying: this is a project focused on volatile mycotoxins, I highly recommend drying these mushrooms in a place with good ventilation! For more information on how to dry mushrooms for long term storage, please see
  3. Notify me that you are going to send me some specimens! You can direct message me on Facebook, iNaturalist, Mushroom Observer, or my personal website (name = Alden Dirks on all platforms) if you do not have my email.
  4. Send your specimens to the following address: Alden Dirks, 4050 Biological Sciences Building, 1105 N. University Ave, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109
  5. Some things to keep in mind: Unfortunately, I do not have access to funds to reimburse anybody for time or expenses related to the donation of mushrooms, including shipping costs. Also note, any specimens donated will not be returned. They will be accessioned at the University of Michigan Fungarium for permanent safekeeping (I’ll share the accession number with you).
  6. I am primarily looking for widespread geographic and phylogenetic sampling across Discinaceae rather than 50 specimens of a single taxon from the same location. I probably won’t be able to analyze everything I receive depending on the number of donations and what comes my way. If I am able to work with your specimen, I will try to culture it, DNA barcode it (ITS rDNA), and assay it for gyromitrin. If that’s the case, I will share the sequence with you and my sequence-based identification. I am also sequencing whole genomes, so your specimen might be selected for that if it is the only or best representative of a species.
  7. THANK YOU!!

*A semi-curated list of all species of interest based on current accepted name in MycoBank
Discina adnata Berk. & M.A. Curtis
Discina ancilis (Pers.) Sacc.
Discina biondiana Arcang.
Discina caroliniana (Bosc) Eckblad
Discina coronaria Beck
Discina disticha Starbäck
Discina emarginata Berk. & Broome
Discina emileja Cooke
Discina epixyla Pat.
Discina lenta Starbäck
Discina martinicae Pat.
Discina martinii (Donadini & Astier) Donadini & Astier
Discina megalospora (Donadini & Riousset) Donadini & Riousset
Discina melaleuca Bres.
Discina mongolica P. Karst.
Discina orbicularis (Peck) Sacc.
Discina pallida Velen.
Discina pallide-rosea Henn.
Discina palmicola Berk. & M.A. Curtis
Discina pululahuna Pat.
Discina radiosensilis Falck
Discina roblinensis Wichanský
Discina scrobiculata Fr.
Discina stephensoniana Ellis
Discina submembranacea Henn.
Discina sullivantii Mont.
Discina urnula Velen.
Hydnotrya badia L. Fan, Y.W. Wang & Y.Y. Xu
Hydnotrya bailii Soehner
Hydnotrya brunneospora L. Fan, Y.W. Wang & Y.Y. Xu
Hydnotrya cerebriformis (Tul. & C. Tul.) Harkn.
Hydnotrya confusa Spooner
Hydnotrya cubispora (E.A. Bessey & B.E. Thomps.) Gilkey
Hydnotrya ellipsospora Gilkey
Hydnotrya inordinata Trappe & Castellano
Hydnotrya laojunshanensis Lin Li, D.Q. Zhou & Y.C. Zhao
Hydnotrya nigricans L. Fan, Y.W. Wang & Y.Y. Xu
Hydnotrya puberula L. Fan, Y.W. Wang & Y.Y. Xu
Hydnotrya soehneri Svrcek
Hydnotrya subnix Trappe & Castellano
Hydnotrya tulasnei (Berk.) Berk. & Broome
Hydnotrya variiformis Gilkey
Gyromitra accumbens Harmaja
Gyromitra ambigua (P. Karst.) Harmaja
Gyromitra antarctica Rehm
Gyromitra anthracobia Loizides, P.-A. Moreau & Bellanger
Gyromitra apiculatula (McKnight) Berthet
Gyromitra arctica Vassilkov
Gyromitra brunnea Underw.
Gyromitra bubakii Velen.
Gyromitra californica (W. Phillips) Raitv.
Gyromitra chirripoensis L.D. Gómez
Gyromitra columbiana Harmaja
Gyromitra convoluta (Seaver) Van Vooren
Gyromitra discinoides (S. Imai) S. Imai
Gyromitra esculenta (Pers.) Fr.
Gyromitra fluctuans (Nyl.) Harmaja
Gyromitra gabretae Kavina
Gyromitra gigas (Krombh.) Quél.
Gyromitra infula (Schaeff.) Quél.
Gyromitra khanspurensis Jabeen & Khalid
Gyromitra korfii (Raitv.) Harmaja
Gyromitra korshinskii (Jacz.) P.M. Kirk
Gyromitra labyrinthica Fr., Öfvers. K. VetenskAkad. Förh.
Gyromitra lactea J.Z. Cao, L. Fan & B. Liu
Gyromitra larryi (McKnight) Harmaja
Gyromitra leucoxantha (Bres.) Harmaja
Gyromitra longipes Harmaja
Gyromitra mcknightii Harmaja
Gyromitra macrospora (Bubák) Harmaja
Gyromitra melaleucoides (Seaver) Pfister
Gyromitra microspora (Donadini & Bozonnet) Harmaja
Gyromitra montana Harmaja
Gyromitra neuwirthi Velen.
Gyromitra olympiana (Kanouse) Harmaja
Gyromitra parma (J. Breitenb. & Maas Geest.) Kotl. & Pouzar
Gyromitra perlata (Fr.) Harmaja
Gyromitra pseudogigas X.C. Wang & W.Y. Zhuang
Gyromitra recurva (Snyder) Harmaja
Gyromitra sichuanensis Korf & W.Y. Zhuang
Gyromitra sphaerospora (Peck) Sacc.
Gyromitra spinosospora (Lucchini & Pelland.) A. Koch, Christan & Lohmeyer
Gyromitra splendida Raitv.
Gyromitra tasmanica Berk. & Cooke
Gyromitra tianshanensis X.C. Wang & W.Y. Zhuang
Gyromitra ticiniana G. Littini
Gyromitra venenata Hai J. Li, Z.H. Chen & Zhu L. Yang
Gyromitra xinjiangensis J.Z. Cao, L. Fan & B. Liu

Posted by aldendirks aldendirks, April 13, 2020 04:39



I will gladly collect for you. I’m probably hunting in the Mt. Hood area of the Cascade Mountains due to the pandemic I won’t go much farther away than that this year.

Posted by eileenbela about 1 year ago (Flag)

@eileenbela Thanks so much!

Posted by aldendirks about 1 year ago (Flag)

I went out today and collected for you today. I will upload the photos of what I collected and that will give you location data. I haven't done id on them yet but they are all Ascomyctes including Gyromitra montana and Gyromytria esculents. They are in the freezer now.

Posted by eileenbela about 1 year ago (Flag)

I collected a nice G. korfii for you today in Holly, MI.

Posted by dianemushroom about 1 year ago (Flag)

@eileenbela @dianemushroom thanks so much you two!!

Posted by aldendirks about 1 year ago (Flag)

I posted photos of my ascomycete collections today. they are in the freezer and/or being spore printed.

Posted by eileenbela about 1 year ago (Flag)

I collected some Gyromitra montana from southern Oregon near the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument. It seems best to dry (with a spore print if possible) rather than the freezer? What is your latest recommendation? Or would you like some frozen-- if so how then would they be posted to you. I'll keep an eye out for the other taxa too. And hope the shut down eases soon. Thanks for doing this interesting study.

Posted by jonaleef about 1 year ago (Flag)

@jonaleef Great, thanks!!

The instructions above still stand. If you collected multiple specimens, it would be greatly appreciated if you could freeze some (for gyromitrin analysis), and get a spore print and dry the rest. They'd all be posted at the same time. The frozen ones will thaw, but the few days being thawed will likely result in less gyromitrin los than being dried. The dried ones will be used for DNA sequencing and the spore print will be used to grow the fungus in culture.

Me too!


Posted by aldendirks about 1 year ago (Flag)

Fascinating study! I have no feeling for how fast the gyromitrin escapes the fungi; we get the most interesting of these (G. californica) in the high country and tradition of stopping for deep fried chicken and a beer on the way home means a long time before getting to a freezer. Would a person be better to place these in a ziplock sealed bag in the field and transferring to freezer later?
How will you determine how much gas has escaped? Good luck!

Posted by natvik 12 months ago (Flag)

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