With these 12 Morel mushroom hunting tips you will gain a complete understand the best time and place to hunt them as well as how to identify the true from the false morels to avoid getting poisoned.
There are plenty of reasons to come out and enjoy the warm, refreshing weather after a long rough winter. One of those reasons is an almost frenetic hunt for wild mushrooms like the Morel, the delectable, sponge-capped oddities that pop up only once a year.
Morel mushroom hunting is an immersive activity as we enjoy those first few weeks of spring when nature comes alive once. It guarantees a fun, satisfying and rewarding experience as you go foraging for one of the most recognized and popular fungi.
And just when everyone wants to come out and soak up on the great, fresh greenery of nature. You are also guaranteed to get some good exercise, what with the crouching, bending, and all the walking around.
Don’t, for a minute, worry if you are not the greatest mushroom hunter or if you step out and can’t spot a morel mushroom even if it was waving at you from a few meters away.
We’ll share some useful tips, tricks, secrets, and just about all the basics you need to make your morel mushroom hunting endeavors a success.
12 Morel Mushroom Hunting Tips you May not Know
Morels typically will fully grow in a couple weeks once they start. The Morel growth typically peaks out at a size of around 3 inches but the world record is 10 inches.
Tip 1) How to find Black Morels
They are often closely linked to trees but usually, not any specific kinds. People have found black morels under hardwoods like Oak and Hickory, but also under other trees like cedar, beech, or black cherry.
Black morels pop up in the exact same places every year, and usually in the company of other morel species. Their growth depends on the amount of rainfall and soil temperature.
Tip 2) How to find Yellow Morels
As the days get warmer, they start to fade off even as the yellow morels stay on. In fact, many mushroom hunters sometimes find black morels as they hunt for yellow morels.
You can spot Yellow Morels around dead Elm trees (American varieties), old apple trees, dead cottonwoods, and several other fruit trees. You can also find them around live Yellow Poplar trees, live ash, and occasionally on mulch that’s less than two years old.
Tip 3) How to find Half-Free Morels
You may struggle to differentiate half-free morels from black morels. They have a striking resemblance, particularly the color of their caps. Half-morels are scattered all over woodlands, often among other morel species.
Half-Morels are more tolerant of excessive moisture and poor soils and therefore, can be found in low growth areas and new growth forests and are often never far from black and yellow morels.
Tip 4) Morels Associate with Other Plants
Morels typically grow up to around four inches tall, and an inch or two across. Look out for conspicuous spring plants that flourish within the same soil types as morels. These include umbrella plants, may apples, and trilliums, among others. While it’s not expressly a guarantee that morels will be growing around such plants, It’s often a good indicator that they are not far off.
Tip 5) Morels Like to Grow in Clusters
Since mushrooms spread through tiny, airborne spores, there’s a good chance you’ll always find them in the same locations. If not, then you could check in all the windward directions from there, and for several dozen yards before heading off to a new location.
Tip 6) 3 Types of Morel Mushrooms & Identification Tips
You may already know this but we’ll say it for emphasis’ sake; be 100% certain of anything you add to your diet. Some types of mushroom can be toxic and even fatal when consumed.
Hunting mushrooms out in the wild isn’t as straight forward as you may think. You may as well blink a few times and begin to notice the sponge-capped crowns all over the forest floor.
Other times you’d walk around in circles and not make any captures. After all, many types of mushroom don’t want to be found and therefore, tend to camouflage themselves.
Therefore, morel mushroom hunting requires a trained, practiced eye. The most experienced morel hunters can walk up to you and pick a fresh morel right next to your feet. But just how do you spot these fabled mushroom of spring that make fools of so many mushroom hunters?
While there are over 80 species of the Morchella clase, there are essentially three main types of true morel that you will typically find; the yellow morel (Morchella esculenta), the black morel (Morchella elata), and the half-free morel (Morchella semilibera).
1) Black Morel
All three types share some common features including a hollow interior and a pitted, sponge-like cap.
Black morel are usually the first to sprout early in the season. They have pore ridges and dark caps which don’t hang freely and often curve under themselves as they connect to the stems. They have a creamy, white-yellow stem when young, and which eventually gets darker, more translucent, and easily broken as they age.
2) Yellow Morel
The yellow morel is perhaps the what makes the morel mushrooms famous. They can be as small as the thumb of a child, with gray or yellow caps. The pits of their caps look like the holes of a sea sponge. The stem starts out as creamy white in its early days, then a bit brittle and granular before becoming stronger (than any of the other morel species) when fully matured.
3) Half-Free Morel
The third type of true morel is the half-free morel, which is hollow like the rest of its family members. But one of its most distinct features is the lower edge of its cap, which isn’t connected to the stem.
Half of its cap hangs free and the pits are less chambered compared to the pits of other morels.
It has a yellow, crumbly stem that grows quite tall and may look out of proportion given the small size of the cap. The half-free morel isn’t the most exciting in terms of taste.
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Tip 7) 3 Poisonous False Morels to Beware of
Many of the deadly mushroom varieties bear a striking resemblance to the edible kinds, which makes them especially dangerous.
As you are out hunting morels you may discover a curiously shaped morel with a yellowish stem that might suggest it’s a relative of true morel.
1) Early False Morel (Verpa Bohemica)
You’ll notice the edge of its helmet-like cap hanging freely over the stem, much like the cap of a half-free morel. This is most likely a Verpa Bohemica, which also happens to be a mushroom season regular.
While some people have collected it and consumed it, others have suffered illness after consuming it.
They have a smooth and sometimes wrinkled, brown cap which hangs over their stems. A cottony tissue fills the stem’s interior which never completely appears hollow as with all other true morels.
2) Deadly False Morel (Gyromitra Esculenta)
The Gryomitra Esculenta is one mushroom that if eaten will cause vomiting and diarrhea within a few hours after they were eaten. Later, you will experience dizziness, lethargy, headaches and eventually leading to coma and death after 5-7 days.
Some people claim that if you cook these that they can turn into an edible mushroom however it’s not 100% confirmed if that actually removes all the toxins.
The biggest way to know if you come accorss the Gyromitra Esculenta is they are not hollow on the inside when cut in half.
3) Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)
Stinkhorn morel is also another false variety, but one you may not have to worry too much about. This is because they appear in the fall and tend to have a distinctive, foul-smelling slime. These goo-covered morel look-alikes attract insects and bugs and some mushroom hunters collect their eggs and cook them up as novelties.
After the flies eat all the slime that covers the cap it will actually have a spongy appearance and be hard to distinguish from a true Morel.
The easiest way to identify this one is by the bad smell.
Despite it’s foul order it is not poisonous and many people in France and Germany choose to eat them. I chose to add it to this list because based on the way it looks and smells you would sure think it was poisonous…but it’s not.
Tip 8) When is the best time to find Morel Mushrooms?
Every mushroom has different seasons and grow in different times of the year. Let’s take a look at the when the Morel’s grow:
1) Black morels
Black Morels typically favor rich soils and the season for Morels makes them available from mid-March through to mid-May.
2) Yellow Morels
Yellow Morels tend to appear in early April, through to early May.
3) Half-Free Morels
Half-Free Morels will pop up in the season from March to May however they seem to really flourish toward the end of the season.
Tip 9) 2 Essential Morel Mushroom Hunting Gear Items
As you head out for your hunting expedition, you’ll want to be properly equipped. One of the most important items is a mesh bag.
The very part we pick and eat also happens to be the one that holds and releases the spores that will ensure reproduction of future morels. Therefore, walking around with a mesh bag or a porous bag will help spread the pores as you trudge around the woods and ensure more morels in the coming seasons.
You’ll also need a sharp, foldable, good-sized knife for harvesting morel. The best types of mushroom hunting knives come with a stainless steel blade, a wooden handle, and a brush at the end of the shaft to easily remove any dirt from your captured morels.
Tip 10) At what temperature do Morel mushrooms appear?
Every morel hunting season is different and heavily influenced by rainfall. More rainfall often means more mushrooms. However, temperatures play a critical, if not bigger role, in the success of any morel mushroom hunting endeavors.
The first morels appear when ground temperatures are between 50 and 75 degrees. But once the temperatures rise into the lower 60s, they virtually stop growing and begin to fade off until the next season.
Therefore, expert morel hunters know that they only have a small window, typically up to around early May.
Tip 11) What elevation is best for finding wild morel mushrooms?
400 to 5,000 feet in elevation.
It turns out that people have reported finding the from as low as 400 ft in elevation all the way up to 5,000 ft in elevation. The elevation doesn’t play as much of a crucial role in the growth of the Morel as does the moist and temperature conditions.
Tip 12) Where are the best places to find morel mushrooms in the U.S.?
1) You’ll typically find morel mushrooms out in the woods. Ash, Elm, and Apple trees are generally some of the favorite tree species, particularly when they are dying or already dead.
2) Burned forested areas also great morel mushroom hunting locations. The Department of Natural Resources provides an interactive map that shows large burn areas recent times.
3) There are several maps that track morel mushroom sightings across the US, including some Google Maps that updates the location of morel mushrooms each season.
4) Some websites can help you track the progression of morel sightings from the warmer states to the cooler states. The maps can even allow you to zero in on your county and brace yourself for the new morel mushroom hunting season in your area.
Using these Morel mushroom hunting maps will make finding the Morels so much easier.
Seasoned mushroom hunters know that morels are some of the most prized captures, what with their reputation for elusiveness, their distinctive looks, and their rich, meaty flavors. With these tips and tricks, you should be in for a rewarding and bountiful chase.
If you decide you just wan to enjoy the taste and health benefits of this delicious mushroom without having to hunt for it you could always consider growing your own secret patch in your back yard as well.
By learning these morel mushroom hunting tips you will surely be light years ahead of your average hunter and will not only fee safe to pick the right ones but now where to find the secret places no one else thought of.
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