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On Finding Morels

By George Davis,
Pikes Peak Mycological Society

        Here are a few pointers for those who have not yet developed their own personal morel hunting skill: Yellow morels like to grow in deciduous forests, but not too dense.  They particularly like cottonwoods, as do the yellow morels in this area. The season usually starts around the first week in May, when the leaves are just barely emerging and ends when no more yellow morels can be found. In our area, that is usually around the last week in May. Yellow morels are rarely found above about 7,000 feet.

    The black morel Morchella elata and its allies) season in this area starts about the time the

M. esculenta seasons ends.  Black morels are found mostly above 7,500 feet growing in mixed woods. We consider the presence of our beloved Fairy Slipper orchid in bloom to be an indicator of morels near by. It is often true because the Calypso orchid, having very few, if any, leaves to collect the sunís ray and photosynthesize its food, depends upon a relationship with fungi, probably of various kinds, to get the nutrients to sustain its life.

     The orchid, to my knowledge, does not provide any known benefit to the fungi. So, it dies not appear to be a symbiotic relationship but rather a parasitic relationship with the orchid being the parasite of the fungi. Of course the fungi cannot photosynthesize either, but the trees that the fungi is mycorrhizal with can and that is a source of energy for both the fungi and the orchid.

     All morel seekers, regardless of experience or skill must re-imprint the visual picture of the morel in its natural habitat in order to see them. That is why it is so difficult for the beginner to acquire the desired hunting skill.  That is also why when the seasoned hunter finds the first morel of the season and they kneel down to collect it, they look around and begin to see more of them, sometimes a lot more that they have been unable to see before, growing in the same area.

     With the pattern of moisture that we have had so far this spring, there should be a bountiful crop of morels; enough to make up for last yearís meager offerings. So get all your gear together and be ready to reap the offerings that the snow and rain will surely provide to us.

Spores Afield - May 2000

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