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Morel Habitat- How to Find Morels

by Graham on February 2, 2011

Morel season is almost here! Time to dust out your hunting baskets and get ready for spring. Morels grow in many different habitats and regions in the United States. While the Great Lakes region is known as the ‘morel hot spot’, they have been found in almost every state. Morel season in the US usually begins mid-April and is wrapping up around mid-June, depending on where you live.

Blonde morels (Morchella esculenta) should be popping up soon in lower elevation areas. Your best bet is to look in areas less than 6000ft in elevation. Soil temperature is also very crucial. When a digital meat thermometer reads 50 degrees F morels are usually about. Generally, 49 degrees means you may be a little early, and 51 degrees F they usually have past. Riparian habitats are usually the most productive areas, but many people find ‘landscaping morels’ in mulched garden beds and city parks. Many seasoned morel hunters refer to ‘indicator plants’ that help them massive hand sized Morchella crassipes and zoe 225x300 Morel Habitat  How to Find Morelsfind habitat and also shows them the specific times they should be out. Much of this research has been done by amateur mycologists who through years of experience have been taking note of other natural signs of the season to increase their harvests. ‘Follow the “Signs” to Collect Morel Mushrooms‘ is an article about morels written by Colorado Mycological Society member William Windsor. He has a very interesting way of describing the morel hunt, and a very Zen way of looking for these sneaky little fungi. Some of the best indicator plants for blonde morels are old apple and ash trees, dying elms, cottonwood trees, asparagus getting just too old to harvest, and poison ivy just beginning to bud. Here is a couple hints. Look in the horsetails next to the river, and always make sure they aren’t just hiding under dead grass!

black morel 225x300 Morel Habitat  How to Find MorelsBlack morels tend to be at higher elevations: 8,000′-9,000′. They can be very difficult to find since the blend in so well with the ground. They have a resemblance to fallen pine cones, so move slowly. Many black morel hunters in Colorado will tell you, “When the aspen trees have dime to quarter sized leaves and pasque flowers and calypso orchids are in bloom, morels are about.” Burn sites are also good places to look. Many black morel hunters only search in burned areas the 2 years following a fire, and nowhere else. Paul Stamets says if you see cup fungi such as the genus Rhizinia, Peziza, or Discina you are in a good area to be looking. The poisonous false morel, Gyromitria esculenta, pop up 2-3 weeks before black morels start popping up. If you are new to morel hunting, make sure you familiarize yourself with the false morel so as to avoid picking it for the table. (there is much debate about Gyromitra esculenta… so much in fact that we must talk about that in a different blog post!!) Another sign is oyster mushrooms that are large and past their prime, as oyster mushroom season is usually the weeks prior to morel season. So as you can see, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with a few of your native trees, plants, and fungi as well as getting to know the other signs of spring in your area by simply walking around. It is probably one of the most enjoyable things you will ever do!

massive hand sized Morchella crassipes 5 27 10 3 225x300 Morel Habitat  How to Find MorelsLast year, we were fortunate enough to meet Michael Kuo at the Snow Mountain Ranch NAMA conference. He is the author of the book, “Morels”, the best guide I have ever read on these elusive fungi. One of the phrases you might hear him say if you attend one of his lectures is, “I’m just an English teacher in Illinois”. However, he also has many, many years of experience with fungi, and what I would consider an obsession with morels. His book is a wealth of morel knowledge. It has tips for hunting, cooking, and storing morels, but also goes more in depth with his discussions on DNA classification, habitat, and more. His lecture on Morels of North America at the NAMA conference was well worth attending. He went in depth into the DNA research being done to differentiate the different species of morels. In fact, he describes at least 14 different ‘genetic types’, many easily confused with each other! Luckily for all of us amateurs, all of the species tested are safe to eat. Beyond his morel-know-how, he also is the developer of MushroomExpert.com, a popular online identification key and updated reports on morel sightings, morel information, and more. It is an indispensable online resource that every amateur mycologist should know about.

IMG 0638 225x300 Morel Habitat  How to Find MorelsAs I write this, morel season is still 4 months away here in Colorado. But in other parts of the country, 2 months is all that is left until Morel season starts! If you would like to stay on top of morel sightings on a national level, TheGreatMorel.com is another great website that you should definitely check out. All of this talk about morels made me hungry. Bacon and cheese stuffed morels with a creamy dipping sauce? Or maybe a hearty cream of porcini soup for this freezing Colorado winter night? (it is -2 degrees F without wind-chill tonight… brrrr!)

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie Gibson February 6, 2011 at 1:21 am

When are you going to come over and make us a pot of your Cream of Porcini Soup?

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Graham February 6, 2011 at 1:58 am

How’s tomorrow sound?

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Pat Hankins February 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm

What an impressive website. Wish we could be with you to enjoy that cup of soup with your famil

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Graham February 7, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Me too!! Miss you guys! Can’t wait to see you guys for Grandad’s birthday…

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Mason April 2, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Great post. Thanks for expanding the Morel knowledge. I’ll be spending quite a bit of time commuting through the Cascades this spring. I’ll probably start hunting this week at the lower elevations. (crossing fingers)

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Graham April 2, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Thanks! Good luck on your morel hunts in the Cascades! Hope your trip goes well! We are having fun out in Northeastern Texas in the pine forests. Still dry-ish in Austin as well as out here in White Oak, but we still have found quite a few mushroom species! No morels yet, though…

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