Helvella lacunosa

For other fungi with a similar name, see elfin saddle.
Helvella lacunosa
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Ascomycota
Subdivision: Pezizomycotina
Class: Pezizomycetes
Order: Pezizales
Family: Helvellaceae
Genus: Helvella
Species: H. lacunosa
Binomial name
Helvella lacunosa
Helvella lacunosa
View the Mycomorphbox template that generates the following list

Mycological characteristics

smooth hymenium
cap is convex
hymenium attachment is not applicable
stipe is bare
spore print is white

ecology is saprotrophic

or mycorrhizal

edibility: edible

or poisonous

Helvella lacunosa, known as the slate grey saddle or fluted black elfin saddle in North America, simply as the elfin saddle in Britain, is an ascomycete fungus of the family Helvellaceae. It is probably the most common species in the genus Helvella.[1] The mushroom is readily identified by its irregularly shaped grey cap, fluted stem, and fuzzy undersurfaces. It is found in Eastern North America and in Europe, near deciduous and coniferous trees in summer and autumn.


The fungus was originally described by the naturalist Adam Afzelius in 1783. Its specific epithet is the Latin adjective lacunosa meaning "with holes". The generic name was originally a type of Italian herb but became associated with morels.[2] H. sulcata; once separated, because of certain differences in the lobe structure is now dropped, or just a synonym. It was not possible to draw a clear distinction between the two.[3]


Helvella lacunosa has an irregularly folded or wrinkled cap which may be shades of slatey grey to black in colour, and measure anywhere from 1 to 10 cm (12 to 4 in), though usually between 2 and 5 cm (1 and 2 in). The wrinkled ringless 3–15 cm (1–6 in) high stem is chambered within, and may be white when young and darker with age, though may be any shade of grey. The spore print is white, the oval spores average 12 x 9 μm.[4] Occasionally white capped forms are found. They may be distinguished from the creamy-white coloured Helvella crispa by the latter's furry cap undersurface and inrolled margins when young.[5]

Distribution and habitat

This species is common in Eastern North America and is also found in Europe,[4] Japan,[6] and China.[7] It is frequent in the alpine, and temperate zones of both the northern and southern hemispheres.[1] The species occurs under pine, oak and Douglas fir and nearby parkland and lawns.[4] Fruiting bodies appear in late summer and autumn, though have been recorded in winter in California.[4] It often occurs on burnt ground.[8]

Some specimens have a white moldy appearance, having been colonised by the parasitic Ascomycete fungus Hypomyces cervinigenus.[4]

Two similar looking species occur in Western North America – Helvella vespertina is associated with conifers and Helvella dryophila is associated with oak. The European Helvella lacunosa has been found in Eastern North America, but not in the west.[9]


This species is eaten and regarded highly by some after cooking, though the stems are not eaten.[4] Several guidebooks list it as edible,[8][10] yet this genus is now regarded with suspicion due to the presence of toxic compounds in several related species. It has been reported to cause gastrointestinal symptoms when eaten raw.[5]


  1. 1 2 Thomas Laessoe (1998). Mushrooms (flexi bound). Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 0-7513-1070-0.
  2. Nilsson S, Persson O.(1977) Fungi of Northern Europe 1: Larger Fungi (Excluding Gill Fungi). pp. 36–37. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-063005-8
  3. Marcel Bon (1987). The Mushrooms and Toadstools of Britain and North Western Europe. Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-39935-X.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Arora, David (1986). Mushrooms demystified: a comprehensive guide to the fleshy fungi (2nd ed.). Berkeley: Ten Speed Press. pp. 815–16. ISBN 0-89815-169-4.
  5. 1 2 Ammirati, Joseph F.; Traquair, James A.; Horgen, Paul A. (1985). Poisonous mushrooms of the northern United States and Canada. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. p. 259. ISBN 0-8166-1407-5.
  6. Nagao H. (2002). "Fungal flora in Chiba Pref., central Japan (III) Ascomycetes: Plectomycetes and Discomycetes". Journal of the Natural History Museum and Institute Chiba (in Japanese). 5: 11132.
  7. Zhuang WY. (2004). "Preliminary survey of the Helvellaceae from Xinjiang, China". Mycotaxon. 90 (1): 3542.
  8. 1 2 Phillips R (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan Ltd. p. 360. ISBN 0-330-44237-6.
  9. Nguyen NH, Landeros F, Garibay-Orijel R, Hansen K, Vellinga EC (2013). "The Helvella lacunosa species complex in western North America: Cryptic species, misapplied names and parasites". Mycologia. 105 (5): 1275–86. doi:10.3852/12-391. PMID 23709487.
  10. Haas, Hans (1969). The Young Specialist looks at Fungi. Burke. p. 184. ISBN 0-222-79409-7.
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