With 80 species of the Morchella genus lets see the top 3 types of Morel mushrooms & key Morel identification tips to harvesting like a pro.
Hunting morel mushrooms is not only a hobby for many mushrooms foragers but a true passion. The morel mushroom is almost like an icon in the world of mushroom hunting.
While there are over 14,000 types of mushrooms you could find in the wild, if you were to go to Google right now and search for ‘mushroom hunting‘ the top results on the page will be picture of the Morel mushroom. It is the most sought after mushroom to hunt in the world.
People who hunt morel mushrooms typically do it to eat them because it is a choice edible mushroom and is loaded with vitamins, nutrients and actually has some ‘little known’ medicinal benefits. While others will hunt them to sell them because while they are in season they can sell for up to $20 a pound.
Like I said in the beginning, there are over 80 species of the Morchella genus (which is the morel) but if we really wanted to make it simpler to identify the morel in the wild we could reduce it down to 3 main categories of Morels to include the:
- Black Morel – Common species include Morchella angusticeps, Morchella conica and Morchella elata.
- Yellow Morel – Common species include Morchella deliciosa and Morchella esculenta.
- Half-Free Morel – Common species include Morchella semilibera, Morchella Punctipes, Morchella Populiphila.
You may come into contact with a Morel mushroom that does not fall into one of these categories, however the good news is that after you read this article you will be able to accurately identify whether you do in fact have a True Morel or a false Morel.
Now lets get into more details on these 3 main categories of Morel mushrooms and how to identify them…
3 Types of Morel Mushrooms & Morel Identification
In general the season for finding morels in the United States is at the beginning of Spring in March to the end of May and are found:
- In wooded areas and tend to like to popup near a trees drip line.
- On the edge of where wooded areas meet an open field.
They tend to like to popup when outside temperatures are around 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and around 40 degrees at night and will typically show up in the same locations year after year.
If you want to get really exact with it you could measure the soil temperature 4 inches below ground. You would want the temperature between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
The easiest way to tell that you have found a true morel is to cut it in half and see if it is completely hollow on the inside with a sponge like cap:
It if is not hollow you may have a poisonous look alike on your hands. To learn more about the poisonous look alikes of the Morel mushroom, to include:
- Early False Morel (Verpa Bohemica)
- Bell Morel (Verpa Conica)
- Deadly False Morel (Gyromitra Esculenta)
- Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)
Check out our other article here:
Most Morels will not get any bigger than 3 inches tall but they have been found as large as 10 inches. Now let’s look at the Black Morel…
1) Black Morel
Black morels are usually the first to sprout early in the season. They will have pore ridges and dark caps which don’t hang freely and often curve under themselves as they connect to the stems.
The Morel will also have a creamy, white-yellow stem when young, and which eventually gets darker, more translucent, and easily broken as they age.
They tend to like hardwood forests where there has recently been a burn with in the past 1-2 years. The burn part is not mandatory but if it has happened then that will be a big plus.
The burned ash from the trees tends to make for higher alkaline soil which this mushroom seems to love.
Some trees they like to associate with include:
You can also check near campgrounds, roadsides and recently flooded wooded areas.
It will typically be the 1st to start growing of the other 2 and will start growing in mid-March and stop growing in mid-May.
Now let’s take a look at the Yellow Morel…
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.
The Yellow Morel can be found growing in just about any wooded area however they seem to have a strong affection towards the following trees:
If there is an apple orchard (or where one use to be) near by then that might be a good place to look because they were treated with calcium carbonate (powdered limestone) which increases the pH level in the ground which this mushroom also loves.
This one will typically makes it’s appearance in early April and stop in early growing in early May.
Be careful with really old apple orchards though because they may have treated them with arsenic or pesticide which could find it’s way into the fruiting body of the mushroom.
Now let’s take a look at the half-free morel…
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 attached to the stem.
Half of its cap hangs free and the pits are less chambered compared to the pits of other morels. I appears to sit like a ‘skirt’ on the stem.
It has a yellow, crumbly stem that grows quite tall and may look out of proportion given the small size of the cap.
While the half-free morel isn’t the most exciting in terms of taste they are still considered edible but some people have reported having gastrointestinal distress when eating them. My opinion is they probably ate a poisonous verpa by mistake.
This one will typically starts growing anytime in March and stops in May but really starts to grow a lot toward the end of the season.
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Now you should have a good idea of how to identify the top 3 types of morel mushrooms which will help with the identification of any type of Morel that you find.
If you would like to know some more tips on hunting for this mushroom as well as to see an interactive map to see if they are growing near you, then check out our other article here:
The biggest thing when hunting for the Morel mushroom is to:
- Make sure the soil temperature is between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (or outside temperature is 60 degrees during the day).
- Make sure it is hollow on the inside.
- Look for somewhat shady areas but areas that still allow some sun to get through to warm up the ground.
- Search for areas with soil that is high in pH levels (e.g. apple orchards or areas burnt within 1-2 years).
- Look for trees that associate with the Morel to include ash, elm, apple, cottonwood, sycamore and poplar.
- Search for plants that tend to grow in the same conditions as Morels to include umbrella plants, may apples, and trilliums.
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