Home • Morchella steppicola PhC 289 v1.0
Photo of Morchella steppicola PhC 289 v1.0
Morchella steppicola [Image courtesy Lukács Zoltán]

In the "1KFG: Deep Sequencing of Ecologically-relevant Dikarya" project (CSP1974), we aim to sequence additional sampling of genomic diversity within keystone lineages of plant-interacting fungi and saprophytic fungi that are of special ecological importance for understanding terrestrial ecosystems. In addition, comparative genome analysis with saprotrophic, mycorrhizal and pathogenic fungi will provide new insights into the specific and conserved adaptations associated with each fungal lifestyle.

Within the framework of CSP1974, we are sequencing phylogenetically and morphologically diverse species of Morchellaceae. These fungi include economically important edible morels (Morchella), putatively toxic false-morels (Verpa), and the edible hypogeous truffle genera Leucangium and Kalapuya (1–3). The ecology of these taxa is still poorly understood. Some Morchella species are suspected to be mycorrhizal symbionts (4), others grow as endophytes within plant roots (5,6), some farm bacteria (7), but the majority of species (including the cultivated species of morels) are considered to be general saprotrophs (8,9). The Morchellaceae lineage is hypothesized to have originated and radiated in the Northern Hemisphere, later dispersing into Southern hemisphere regions (10). Genomic data generated by this project will be used to better identify genomic features underlying the distinct ecology, diversity, and morphology of Morchellaceae fungi.

Morchella steppicola Zerova

Morchella steppicola is unique in many ways. This is the oldest lineage of yellow morels known to date (Morchella Section) and the only representative of the Steppicola sub-section. Its size is small to medium to rarely large (2.5)5-10(12) cm in height. It is characterized by a curled-looking cap, filled with uncountable, narrow, welded primary cells with unclosed, fragile and rapidly russeting edges, no secondary cells and no internal swelling. Its short foot is filled with numerous bulges and cavities. This morel is rare in Central and Eastern Europe and locally abundant in Western and Central Asia in steppes. Fruiting bodies can be found on disturbed limestone and clay soils, fallow lands, vineyards, and in plantations of deciduous and coniferous trees that have been burnt down. Its trophic behaviour is still enigmatic. This saprotrophic fungus appears to interact with the surrounding herbaceous plants. Deciphering its genome will provide new highlights on its mode of nutrition and the behaviour of its mycelium and especially the relationship between primary and secondary mycelium that leads to sexual reproduction.

Researchers who wish to publish analyses using data from unpublished CSP genomes are respectfully required to contact the PI and JGI to avoid potential conflicts on data use and coordinate other publications with the CSP master paper(s).



  1. O’Donnell, K., Cigelnik, E., Weber, N. S. & Trappe, J. M. Phylogenetic Relationships among Ascomycetous Truffles and the True and False Morels Inferred from 18S and 28S Ribosomal DNA Sequence Analysis. Mycologia 89, 48–65 (1997).
  2. Gecan, J. S. & Cichowicz, S. M. Toxic Mushroom Contamination of Wild Mushrooms in Commercial Distribution. J. Food Prot. 56, 730–734 (1993).
  3. Trappe, M. J., Trappe, J. & Bonito, G. Kalapuya brunnea gen. & sp. nov. and its relationship to the other sequestrate genera in Morchellaceae. Mycologia 102, 1058–1065 (2010).
  4. Buscot, F. Mycorrhizal succession and morel biology. Mycorrhizas in ecosystems 220–224 (1992).
  5. Masaphy, S., Zabari, L., Goldberg, D. & Jander-Shagug, G. The complexity of Morchella systematics: a case of the yellow morel from Israel. Fungi 3, 14–18 (2010).
  6. Baynes, M., Newcombe, G., Dixon, L., Castlebury, L. & O’Donnell, K. A novel plant–fungal mutualism associated with fire. Fungal Biol. 116, 133–144 (2012).
  7. Pion, M., Spangenberg, J. E., Simon, A., Bindschedler, S., Flury, C., Chatelain, A., Bshary, R., Job, D. & Junier, P. Bacterial farming by the fungus Morchella crassipesProc. Biol. Sci. 280, 20132242 (2013).
  8. Benucci, G. M. N., Longley, R., Zhang, P., Zhao, Q., Bonito, G. & Yu, F. Microbial communities associated with the black morel Morchella sextelata cultivated in greenhouses. PeerJ 7, e7744 (2019).
  9. Hobbie, E. A., Rice, S. F., Weber, N. S. & Smith, J. E. Isotopic evidence indicates saprotrophy in post-fire Morchella in Oregon and Alaska. Mycologia 108, 638–645 (2016).
  10. O’Donnell, K., Rooney, A. P., Mills, G. L., Kuo, M., Weber, N. S. & Rehner, S. A. Phylogeny and historical biogeography of true morels (Morchella) reveals an early Cretaceous origin and high continental endemism and provincialism in the Holarctic. Fungal Genet. Biol. 48, 252–265 (2011).