Tips for finding Morel Mushrooms

When should I start Looking for Morel Mushrooms?

Morel Mushrooms are seasonal and can be found in the springtime. They can start in February in the deep south and progress northward as temperatures warm, as late as mid June in the midwest. Higher elevations in the PNW, morels can be found well into late august as the snow-pack melts.

What are the best Signs of Morel Mushroom Season?

There are many things to be looking for to help with your timing of the Morel Mushroom Season. My personal best signs are when redbud trees start to bloom. Many other signs are pictured below:

Redbud in full bloom.

When you spot the bright red scarlet cup fungi top, this usually appears 7-10 days before first morels. The black devil’s urns are usually just a couple of days before morels and will continue to grow and mature along with morels. Other signs to look for are dandelions blooming, daffodils, forsythia, when oak leaves are the size of squirrel ears, lilacs blooming, etc.

When the soil temperature reaches into the 50’s at a 2-3″ depth, this triggers the underground morel mycelium to begin growth of tiny baby morels.

Is there any online help to help find Morel Mushrooms?

There are numerous social media groups about Morel Mushroom Hunting. I have personally created over 30 FaceBook groups and pages, view a list HERE.  You can also check my Morel Mushroom Progression Maps that I update weekly HERE.

What trees do Morel Mushrooms grow under?

With the exception of the “Landscape Morels” that grow from mulch, all other woodland species of morels are “mycorrhizal” to specific trees and bushes.  So many morel hunters walk through the woods aimlessly looking down at the ground for them. Eventually you will stumble upon some, but there is a reason they are growing in that particular spot… In the midwest, dying elm trees, ash trees, tulip poplars, old apple orchards, sycamores, and even white pines. In the PNW, morels are connected to fir trees in the forests and along rivers- cottonwoods.

Can Morel Mushrooms make you sick?

Yes! Most wild mushrooms including morels contain mild toxins that may cause stomach upset if eaten RAW! A few minutes in the skillet removes the toxins.

Are there any poisonous look alikes?

There are “false morels” that grow at the same time and may look barely similar to morels to the untrained eye. The biggest difference is the fact that all true morel species are 100% hollow when sliced open. All false morels are either chambered inside or contain a white cotton substance inside the stem. A large percentage of foragers eat false morels despite their much higher toxin levels. Eat them at your own risk, I do not advise to eat them!

Do Morel Mushrooms grow or just pop-up?

Morels do actually grow, and somewhat slowly, up to 21 days to maturity!

What kind of gear do I need to hunt for Morel Mushrooms?

A mushroom knife is recommended to avoid damaging the underground mycelium. Collect them in a mesh bag as this allows their spores to drop through. Using plastic will condensate and spoil your mushrooms.

Are there any dangerous things to know about while hunting Morel Mushrooms?

Yes, use bug spray to avoid ticks and high boots to avoid snakes.

How many species of Morel Mushrooms are there?

100’s around the world. In the US, four common east of the Mississippi, and a few others in the PNW. A future blog will detail each species including locations, and habitats.

How can Morel Mushrooms be preserved?

Never soak them. Keep them in a brown paper bag in the fridge for up to 20 days. You can dry them and also freeze them with my proven method.

What is the best way to cook Morel Mushrooms?

Most people enjoy them simply breaded and fried. I also like them in Alfredo as well as stuffed with cream cheese and crab!

Do Morel Mushrooms grow in every state?

Yes, but extremely rare in Florida. This year in 2020 I have had many reports from Hawaii! 

Final comments:

Take time to enjoy the beauty of the woods including many amazing spring wildflowers. There are many other edible species of spring mushrooms that shouldn’t be overlooked as well as delicious wild edible plants. Enjoy the woods and savor the moment as it just comes once a year for about 3-4 weeks! Consider joining this club and help support my efforts as well as attending one of my guided hunts (forays). I also have a great book on morels HERE. Happy hunting, see you in the woods!

-Chris Matherly