Cap 1.5-3.5 cm tall, 2-3.5 cm broad, conic, becoming obtuse-conic to bell-shaped in age, smooth to shallowly folded (but not wrinkled), attached only at the stipe apex; margin at first inrolled, irregular to wavy in outline, often slightly recurved in age; upper surface fertile, glabrous, dull brown when young, light-brown to ochraceous at maturity; lower surface sterile, pallid, matted tomentose to subpubescent; context thin, whitish, unchanging when cut or injured; odor not distinctive; taste mild.
Stipe 4-10 cm tall, 1-2.5 cm thick, fragile, round to somewhat flattened, occasionally folded or grooved at the base, equal to narrowed at the apex, often becoming curved in age; stuffed cottony when young, typically hollow at maturity; surface glabrous, developing buff-colored, appressed scales at maturity.
Spores 25-33 x 15-19 µm, elliptical, smooth; asci 8-spored; spore deposit not seen.
Solitary or in small groups under hardwoods/conifers along stream banks; in the S.F. Bay Area occasionally in ice-plant (Mesembryanthemum spp.); fruiting in the spring.
Edible, of fair quality.
Distinguishing features of this Ascomycete include a brown to ochraceous-brown conic cap, often with a wavy margin, a pileus attached only at the stipe apex, and a pallid stipe usually with appressed, pale ochraceous scales. Another species, Verpa bohemica has a distinctive wrinkled cap and is sometimes confused with distantly related morels (Morchella spp.) which have pitted/ridged caps. Indeed, Verpa bohemica is sometimes sold in markets under the name "Spring Morel" or "Early Morel," though it lacks both the texture and flavor of true morels (Morchella spp.). Morels, (except for Morchella semilibera) can easily be told from Verpa bohemica by a cap margin that is fused (not free) to the stipe. The exception to the rule, Morchella semilibera, has a cap that is fused approximately halfway to the apex.