June Mushrooms of the Month

Gallery

This gallery contains 20 photos.

Welcome to the June installment of Mushrooms of the Month. The warmer weather has finally moved into our region of the States and is unveiling all the beautiful spectrums of color, nature has to offer! Much like the flowers have … Continue reading

Spring Foray at Hocking Hills

by Alan McClellandOMS_MorelForay2013_32
A few weekends ago, Shirley McClelland and myself lead a foray for the elusive Morchella species within Hocking Hills. We had an excellent turnout for a spring mini-foray with both older and newer members alike that were very ambitious to find this springtime wild delectable. We first embarked on an educational route through some creekside territory, then a smaller group of us, in the early afternoon went to an approved private land area that looked nice but did not produce for anything all that interesting. Later an even smaller group joined me and we lucked out with a small spread of morels shown above in another area. Along the way, we saw many gorgeous wildflowers and a few other common fungi such as dryad’s saddle and mica caps. Overall, a pretty successful foray by the end of the day for those who endured and had the time to seek out more. For many, a very nice educational walk on a pleasant warm springtime day with everyone getting to know the elusive morel!

Click on the picture above to see some glimpses of that day!

Dick Grimm: Living within Nature

These past months, I had the pleasure of not only interviewing a legend when it comes to the world of fungi education, but a passionate artist, gardener, forager and most of all—an undeniable naturalist at heart! Dick has been a pivotal part of OMS since the early 70’s and has mentored several members throughout his lifetime. He has grown up within nature and truly understands the forest and all the wonders within it!
-Alan McClelland
DG_MS_2013_AHM_10
Boletus edulis sculpture by Dick Grimm
What were some of your first experiences that got you interested in the world of fungi?
From the depression days of the early 30’s I had a fascination, perhaps even a love affair, with Mother Nature. I was a hill boy at the time in southeastern Ohio in the small town of Coshocton. I was only 8 years of age at the time, which was pretty early to be messing around with an older woman. I was always somewhat of a loner and spent a lot of time roaming the wooded hills of the area. Along with wandering in the woods, I was also a “river rat” and lived in easy access of the confluence of three major rivers. I lived, or probably better put, existed, in a rather dilapidated cabin along a manmade lake that was part of the old Ohio canal. We were very poor, which wasn’t anything unusual given this  period of time in our countrie’s history. During this time period, I conjured up a deep interest in wild plants, trees, fish, birds and anything else nature had to offer. I had no interest in mushrooms, however. “Toadstools”, the stem-cap types, were looked upon with superstitious disdain at this time, and I was instructed at an early age to not even touch them, let alone eat them. For the most part, “mycophobia” hasn’t changed much.
It wasn’t until 1941 that we moved from Coshocton to the flat land, glaciated area of north central Ohio–Marion to be exact. It was like running down a ski slope onto a tennis court. Marion county was as flat as Coshocton county was hilly. I maintained my interest in nature, however, and delighted in the species variation of the vascular plants that came with the change of habitat. I went on with my trekking the woodlands and being pretty much of a loner.  My interest was mostly identifying things that were unfamiliar to me in the natural world. I still had no interest in mushrooms, only the vascular plants.
I was in high school at a time, when we had on occasion to move to another part of town. The house we rented was beside a greenhouse. Still mentally suffering from the depression fallout, my mom promptly got me a job in the greenhouse so I could “earn my keep” as it were.  Being next to plants and learning horticulture was pleasing for me and fit in with my love of the outdoors. Even the “indoors” seemed “outdoors” to me.
My life was put on hold at this point with a two year stint in the service.
My job awaited me when I returned from overseas and so did my sweetheart whom I had met in the greenhouse–both of us having been employed there. We married immediately on my return and have remained so for 67 years now. At this time, I still never had an interest for mushrooms.
In the late 40’s, I returned to the greenhouse that had been taken over by the daughter of my former boss. She was a rabid naturalist and a very good one. On my 21st birthday, she purchased as a birthday present for me; a mushroom book authored by William Sturgis Thomas. “Field Book to Common Mushrooms”, it was titled and I hit the floor running–the book fascinated me! Perhaps it was because I’d covered most of the vascular plants that interested me and these unique and unusual plants and their habits had me glued to the pages for most of my free time.
Given that the majority of the population in America were mostly Anglo-saxons, and the fact that the English were traditionally anti-mushrooms; there was little to be found in the way of literature on the subject. Mushroom books didn’t sell due to lack of interest, so they were not purchased by book stores. One nearly had to go it alone; a self educated proposition. I managed to get a few more books such as: Alex Smith’s “Mushroom Hunters Field Guide”, Myron Hard’s “Mushrooms” and one of my very favorite beginner’s book Phyllis Glick’s “The Mushroom Trail Guide” and my “mycobible” over the years, C.H. Kauffman’s “Agaricaceae of Michigan”, a perfectly organized book that takes the reader by the hand. It is strictly for learning by reading with no color plates, which to me are an interruptive diversion and best used to justify an Identification decision already made. This initial decision would better be decided by the use of keys to form an ID conclusion, rather than browse in a picture parade trying to match the mushroom in hand with a picture in a book. There are too many mushrooms that appear the same. Although Kauffman has a separate book to go with the main manuscript, the pictures are miserable black and white photos probably taken by an old “black box” Kodak, popular during that era; the book was written in 1918. I finally built a library of around fifty or so books. A dozen very good manuscripts would have served the same purpose. There is a lot of “copycatism” in mushroom books. Some are written, but I think simply copied from books already published…not word for word, of course, but as a source of information.
Good comprehensive keys are essential for a solid approach for learning the fleshy fungi.
Dick Grim._CTHolcom b
Dick Grimm with Rube Holcomb checking out some spores circa the 1970s.
How did Ohio Mushroom Society start and progress over the years? Who were some of the key people that started this organization and what was your involvement at the time?
OMS struggled for membership in the beginning for lack of interest in the subject. Even naturalists ignored the subject. On the outside looking in, this is often very subjective when dealing with what was considered a hobby full of deadly poisonous species of a plants. Actually there are very few deadly poisonous mushrooms, and thankfully most of them are in one genus. The genus Amanita, is well documented and easily distinguishable through that documentation. Still, the mycophiles are considered a weird breed who play Russian roulette with a poisonous natural food. There is no excuse for ignorance when it comes to poisonous fungi.
Most of our early efforts took place around Xenia, Ohio. I got in touch with Harry Knighton from Portsmouth, Ohio, who is now deceased, but originally entered into one of President Lyndon Johnson’s “people to people” programs; this one expounded the fleshy fungi subject. Given that, Harry was an Ohioan of the North American Mycological Association (NAMA), which was started right here in Ohio. The first meeting took place at Camp Lazarus near Delaware, with Harry presiding. I don’t recall all of the first few in the group, less than a half dozen as word had it, but along with Harry, Professor Wayne Ellette, who was a plant Pathology professor at Ohio State University was present at the time. Wayne became a good friend of mine as time went on. Over time, through that organization I obtained the names of the men from Xenia where most of the mycological interest resided.
We were a party loving group and included covered dish food and drink at most of our forays. There were some “myco-sharpies” in the group and I  learned from them. Actually we learned from one another and eventually the club began to grow, although not by leaps and bounds. There wasn’t that many leapers and bounders interested in mushrooms. But, someone knew someone who knew someone and eventually the club grew to around 40 or 50 members! We put out a monthly periodical called “The Spore Print”. We had a member, a dear old woman, who was quite wealthy and was actually the granddaughter of President Rutherford B. Hayes. She decided we needed a mimeograph machine for the periodical and promptly bought us one. I took the position of President and also Editor of the paper at this time. It suffered grammatical chaos until the treasurer of NAMA, Neil Waterbury from Toledo became a member of our club, edited it before it was sent back to me for printing. It all seems so archaic now with the advent of computers. Neil retired from the NAMA Treasurers position only a few years later and recommended me for the job of which I accepted. I gave it up in about a year. It was too demanding for the time I had to give it.
It was about the mid 70’s when a young college grad from Youngstown, one Walter Sturgeon, got in touch with me. His wife had given him a mushroom book for his birthday and like me, he went ape over it! Walt and I got together and I mentored him for awhile. He was a dedicated student and after a few years, he was teaching me.
Walt took over the presidency. We passed it back and forth a couple of times with each other and another of our members. Bill Roody, now author of several mushroom books was brought into the club and took over the responsibility of editing the newsletter. He promptly changed the name from “The Spore Print” to “The Mushroom Log”, telling us that there was other Spore Print periodical signatures in clubs around the country. The name changed to “The Mushroom Log”, as has remained same to this very day.
What were some of your favorite haunts you enjoyed finding a diversity of fungi back in the 70’s?  
Various parks in Ohio: Burr Oak Park in Morgan County being a regular mushroom vacationing venture, Shawnee, Delaware, Deer Creek, Mohican, and Oak Openings just to name just a few. I haven’t missed many of them over the years. 
DG_MS_2013_AHM_01
Boletus frostii sculpture by Dick Grimm
What were some of your favorite places outside of Ohio you enjoyed foraging?
I’d have to say the “Smokies” for places outside of Ohio. The habitat there is so diverse there! When it was wet, the outer banks of North Carolina was very interesting as well. Actually a good mushroomer is always on the lookout for mushrooms no matter where he might be. Mushroom habitat is so diverse and varied that one might pop up anywhere. If you find yourself behind an erratic driver of an automobile, don’t always assume he may be drinking. There’s a good chance he may be on the look out for mushrooms. We are a menace to public safety while driving an automobile.
 DickGrimm_2010_AHM
Dick Grimm at Dawes Arboretum Foray in the summer of 2010.
I know you are still educating people to this very day. Can you elaborate a little on what you currently doing to help educate people interested in fungi and OMS members?
I have offered a winter mushroom class via email for the past few years. It started with 7 members originally years back. This year, 55 people are currently taking the class. It keeps me very busy and I’m glad. I am an ardent gardener, but one cannot garden in the winter time. I think they should cancel January and February for lack of interest. I detest cold weather!
I did want to clarify that I am very adverse to the course that amateur mushrooming has taken in the past 10-15 years. It is difficult for amateurs and professional mycologist to dance in the same hall. And since mycology is just beginning to come into its own, the professionals actually dominate which direction the hobby takes. Early mushroom books written for the amateur ranks were very comprehensive, despite the use of the Latin terminology involved. Plus, other than spore shapes and measurements, little was offered up microscopically. Eventually, there wasn’t much to write about from a macroscopic approach and with the advent of the electron microscope; and now DNA the approach has gone to the “guts” of the matter, thus name changing using microscopic application is running rampant. The situation drives many would-be mushroom enthusiasts away. Probably less than 10% of the amateur mycophiles even own a microscope, nor do they care to. Unlike other natural science field guides and manuscripts that offer a common name, which is usually listed first in the description, followed by the Latin name. In mushroom field guides, there is no common name at all, but rather just a Latin name, which incidentally, is constantly changing! My comments here could easily slip into four letter words, so I will beg off by simply adding that the situation is ludicrous, and a  thorn in the side of amateurism.
What are some of your favorite and least favorite edibles?
You may be surprised to know that I’m not much of a mushroom eater. My wife Phyllis is, and so far, I’m happy to say–I haven’t made any mistakes with the mushrooms I’ve given her to eat. My quest has always been to seek and identify strictly.
My criteria for cooking is that the mushroom is very lightly dusted with flour and sautéed in hot butter or olive oil until the edges become crisp, salted to taste and then eaten. No fancy condiments and no fancy sauces. This is not to say that different recipes might not enhance the flavor, but one would not be getting the TRUE flavor of the mushroom. One could eat an old boot, if enough extras were added. Using the afore mentioned criteria, I would say Lepiota procera would be my favorite. Others, in order would be: Morchella esculenta and elata, Coprinus comatus, pleurotus ostreatus (group), Agaricus arvensis (very strong flavored ), Agaricus rodmani (good flavor and substance), Agaricus campestris (old faithful), Craterellus fallax (especially in egg omlets) Marasmius oreades (again in omlets), Hygrophorus pratensis (bland but good).
The poular ones I don’t like would be Latiporus  sulphureus , Grifola frondosa, and yes… the very popular–Cantherellus cibarius. The often prepared Polyporus squammosa (dryads saddle typically cooked in enough gunk to obtain at least some type of flavor) I doubt I would eat even if I were starving. I care for no Boletes other than Gyroporus castaneus, also know as the little chestnut bolete. Having a hollow stem it often escapes the worm invasion that crawl up stems that are stuffed. This little guy has good flavor for a bolete. Those species in the Boletus edulis complex are good but often very wormy, especially B. variipes.
DG_MS_2013_AHM_12
Amanita phalloides sculpture by Dick Grimm
I had the pleasure to see some of your beautiful mushroom sculptures, woodcarvings and paintings. Can you elaborate a little on how this all started and where you have some of display to this very day?
Daphne Vasconselose, who is now Bill Mielke’s wife, made me a sculpture of Strobilomyces floccopus as a thank-you, and I was so impressed by it, I had to try it myself. I like art, and dabble in it in different ways. I like to do “far out” stuff so when something turns me on, I go for it! That’s why I hunt mushrooms, I suppose. One must admit it’s a pretty unusual hobby. I’m into the natural sciences and the fleshy fungi which consumed me over time–mentally parasitized you might say. I enjoyed the outcomes of the sculpture projects and wound up doing over a hundred for club member, Janet Sweigart, many years back. I also did a couple for my friend–the late Ernst Both. These were two new boletes that he had just authored and we gifted him with these sculptures when he gave us a program at one of our forays. Ernst wrote the book “Boletes of North America” (a compendium). There are several of my sculptures at Dawes Arboretum which is now the home base for the “Ohio Mushroom Society”. It’s an on going thing but right now it’s more “on” than “going” I fear. Too many irons in the fire right now.
What are some of your very favorite personal pieces you have done over the years?
I think one I did last year for the “Cleveland Museum of Natural Science”. Probably the reason being it was quite large. It was an 18”x12” cluster of several caps of Laetiporus sulphureus (Sulphur shelf). It was a pretty massive structure to say the least.
Are you currently working on any pieces?
The set of models I’m working at now (the ones you have the pictures of for the gallery section of this interview) will be a floating assemblage for any group who would like to display them, or I may just house them at one of the nearby nature centers. Our local library wants to display them in the very near future. I like the models that I’ve mounted with a natural habitat base. They appear a bit more realistic, but like many of my projects, they go wanting to be finished.
I have noticed personal journals you sketch a lot and seem to have a lot of fun with it. Can you tell us little more of how this started and what motivates the work?
I’m a retired horticulturist, mostly greenhouse floriculture, so I enjoy landscaping my property in different ways. I suppose that’s another form of art, too. I built a ten foot windmill from driftwood for my daughter that finds its way into her front lawn every summer. It’s very unique and one of a kind. It’s a weather vane type of structure and lends itself to wind direction just like the big ones you see on farm properties. I’m pretty proud of that effort.
I was into building odd ball bird houses for awhile. All of them were made from slab wood that I bought by the truckload. I heat my house with a wood fireplace insert and certain pieces of the slab wood were great for building rustic, natural looking birdhouses. I went so far as to build a grandfathers clock from that wondrous slab pile.
I paint, too, but I think I’m better at painting a house than I am at painting a picture. I envy those who can sit and sketch a portrait; I never could do that. Sometimes I think I’m a pretty good artist, until I watch someone who really is good. It makes me want to put my brush away and take up some other form of art. I think everyone has some sort of art form they practice, a special talent they have that they do well with their hands and mind. I guess it depends on what one considers art.                         
Any closing statements you would like to share to all the fungiphiles out there?
I didn’t mean for this to become a novel but never ask an old man to talk about something he loves to do or there seems no end to the story, however, I feel it is time to end this one. Keep shroomin’ and remember the old adage: “When in doubt–throw it out!”  
DickGrimm_2013_AHM_02
Dick Grimm with one of his beautiful wood carvings in his backyard, this year.
Enjoy a retrospective of Dick and his immense work here at this link below.

Spring Traditions and the Forgotten Wonders Beneath the Trees

by Alan McClelland
01-Amanita-muscaria-var.-fo
As far back as I can remember, my brother taught me to appreciate the forest and every little wonder within it. Much like he taught me to appreciate reptiles and amphibians, he also sparked my interest into the mysterious world of Fungi during my teenage years. He would take me along every year in late April to go morel picking with my cousins who lived in Ashland. We would go to our cousin’s best scouted areas for hours to find these elusive treasures. If we were lucky enough to find many, we usually followed this up in the evening with a tasty meal of delicious mushrooms! This spring tradition carried on for years to come.
During my college years in the early 90’s, my brother started to scout areas closer to home in Akron, so our bounties became even more plentiful and diverse. My brother being a chef for most of his life, had prepared several delightful meals over the years of a variety of morels for us to enjoy during the springtime season. During this time, unfortunately I experienced a severe poisoning leading back to these delicious little gems. Even though, I did not believe it myself and had ate these most of my life, I ended up in the intensive care unit of the hospital for a few days I will never forget. Although I had went through this poisoning that almost destroyed my liver, a few years later I unsuccessfully attempted to eat two very well cooked deliciosa morels only to find myself in anaphylactic shock within twenty minutes after I had eaten them and another few days in the hospital. From then, I accepted the truth that my body chemistry had changed and I had developed a very rare allergy to this particular species of mushroom. I blame no one but myself to this day, but it’s tough to part with something as tasty as morels! But thankfully, I can eat most other species of mushrooms to this day with caution. Despite I was poisoned those two times, I continued to pick every season with my brother and even got a better eye at finding them as well. I would envy the rest of my family eating our precious spring charms for years to come. This tradition carried on until my brother passed away of a seven year fight with a rare bone marrow cancer known as Multiple myeloma in 2007.
This leads me to now, and how much more I appreciate and respect the mesmerizing world of Fungi and not just species of morels. In the summer of 2010, I finally decided to join Ohio Mushroom Society and actually learn more about the actual diversity of mushrooms species we have in Ohio. Being a member has lead me into not only starting to recognize the diversity of Fungi species we have throughout the world, but the role of importance they hold that we are now only discovering in the past decades! It is said that there are well over 2000 different species of Fungi alone in Ohio. Which to me sounds quite outlandish as most of us have only seen a small number of those species, if any at all in the wild or urban areas. This is not very uncommon amongst are Western upbringings as opposed to Eastern societies and how their knowledge of Fungi has far surpassed ours for centuries. We are only now starting to understand what they have carried on from generation to generation. Leading Mycologist–Paul Stamets’ groundbreaking research and publications alone are fascinating and he is revolutionizing the importance of these elusive charms of the forest! Mycoremediation may just save this planet some day. And understanding the importance of fungi in medicine may just save our lives!
Knowing this makes me eager not only to learn more about the importance of Fungi, but to experience these individual species in their natural environment. To be there when these wonderful and mysterious things are growing in their natural state is a personal charm. To capture these moments with my camera lens is the reward and the education undeniably. In the next few months, I am revealing a Ohio Fungi series that I started in early 2011 and will be an ongoing collection much like my Delicate Balance nature series I have executed over the years. Because the diversity of species is immense, I will be presenting this series in seasonal installments throughout this year for those to enjoy.

Forgotten Wonders Beneath the Trees • Vernal Series(April – June 21)

This work is dedicated to Paul McClelland(February 20,1962–February 5, 2007)

False Morels

Written by Walt Sturgeon
Originally Published in the January/February 2006 Mushroom Log

Springtime morel hunting results in occasional encounters with false morels in the genus Gyromitra and Verpa. None of these are considered choice edibles and at least one species is sometimes fatal. None have the honey comb like cap of a true morel. All the Gyromitra species should not be eaten.

There are 2 species of Verpa (thimble caps). The common one in Ohio is Verpa conica (smooth thimble cap). It grows under various hardwood trees in the spring. The cap may be a bit wrinkled. It is considered edible but is not popular. Rare in most of Ohio but common in parts of Michigan is the wrinkled thimble cap, Verpa bohemica. It occurs under mixed hardwoods and can be very small or as large as the common morel. It sometimes causes digestive upsets and problems with coordination. It is counted as a morel in the morel hunting contests in Michigan. It is sometimes mistaken for a half free morel which has a hollow stipe. The Verpa has a cottony pith inside the stipe.

There are four (possibly five) species of Gyromitra which can be expected in Ohio. Only two of these are somewhat common. All are usually fist sized or larger. All are wrinkled, convoluted and described as brain like. Often they have a saddle shaped fruiting surface. Rare is the autumn false morel, Gyromitra infula which usually fruits in September and October on well decayed wood. Extreme Northeastern Ohio would be the most likely place to find it. Also rare in Ohio (unknown as far as I know but reported from Pittsburgh Pa.) is the very large Gyromitra caroliniana. Sometimes called the red false morel or big red, it is a species of the south central states. One fruiting can weigh a couple pounds. Extreme southwestern Ohio might be the place to search for this.

The brown false morel. Gyromitra fastigiata (formerly Gyromitra brunnea) usually fruits in May in low hardwood areas. It has a rich medium to dark brown pileus and can be 4 inches across. The white stipe contrasts with dark cap.

The bull nose false morel, Gyromitra korfii is yellow brown to brown and in my experience is our most common species. Macroscopically it is very similar to Gyromitra gigas which is more common in the west and in the mountains. It usually begins to fruit in April, often at the same time as the black morels.

The most controversial false morel is rare in Ohio but very common in parts of Michigan. This is Gyromitra esculenta. It usually fruits near conifer trees. It is referred to as beef steak morel in some areas and is consumed after special preparation. There have also been confirmed fatalities. Some of the toxin is removed by boiling multiple times in water and discarding the water. Reportedly cooks have been poisoned simply from breathing the steam. One of its toxins is monomethylhydrazine which has been used in rocket fuel. It is available canned and dried from Finland and probably other countries as well. I will not even consider eating this species. Neither should you. I have never found it in Ohio but it does occur here.

Gyromitra brunnea
Gyromitra brunnea by Walt Sturgeon

Gyromitra esculenta
Gyromitra esculenta by Walt Sturgeon

Gyromitra korfii
Gyromitra korfii by Walt Sturgeon

All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced or distributed without specific permission.

Morels and How to Find Them

Written by Tim Geho
Originally Published in the January/February 2007 Mushroom Log


Morchella deliciosa 6
Morchella deliciosa by Walt Sturgeon

Ed. Note: This is an excellent article to read before you go out hunting for morels later this spring.

Several species of morels grow in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC area. They are commonly referred to as black, white, gray, yellow, and half-free morels. All are taxonomically classified as members of the genus Morchella. Scientifically, there are probably two species of the white or yellow morel and at least one species of black morel in this area. The so-called M esculenta and M deliciosa can usually be told apart using nothing more than visible features; but unfortunately, each of them may actually comprise several species that can only be distinguished using DNA analysis.

The following may be news to many experienced mycologists. Recent research has determined that these names may not be correct for North American morels. M esculenta was originally described in Sweden. No North American morel appears to match any of the Swedish morels genetically. Since M esculenta has already been described, we may have to come up with a new name for the North American version since you can’t give the same name to two genetically distinct species. This may also be the case for M deliciosa and the black morels. Various authors have named the black morel as either M elata or M conica or M angusticeps. It appears so far that none of these species grows in the US either. Angusticeps is a North American name, but the name itself may not be valid.

Recent DNA sequencing has shown at least 14 taxa of morels present in the US; six species of morels have already been classified in Pennsylvania alone. Here we go again with more renaming of fungi. In his forthcoming book, Morels, (due October 2005) Dr. Michael Kuo treats several species of yellow morels that have been distinguished by DNA studies. For the time being the species names esculenta and deliciosa are used to differentiate between the two morphologically distinct yellow morels. The larger and thicker fleshed variety that grows under several varieties of trees is currently being called esculenta. The name deliciosa is being used for the smaller, thin fleshed, usually pointed morel commonly found most often under tulip poplars or ash trees. To learn more about the taxa that have been identified, go to http://www.MushroomExpert.com. Dr. Kuo is one of the principal developers and administrator of that site.

The scientific effort at classifying morels using DNA results is currently in high gear. Much of the effort is associated with the Morel Data Collection Project (MDCP). Hopefully some day or year soon, we may finally know how many species of morels there actually are, and they may actually have widely accepted names. One thing that has been established is that what many people and some books referred to as M crassipes has DNA identical to that of what is currently called M esculenta. The MDCP needs specimens of morels from the East Coast, especially of the species M semilibera, because it is thought that there may be a species in the eastern US not found elsewhere. If any club members wish to contribute a few morels to the effort, they are encouraged to visit http://www.MushroomExpert.com the main web site for the MDCP. One mushroom with a little supporting information can help solve the issue of how many species of morels there are and their distribution.

Morels can be found in a variety of habitats in this part of the country. Trees that are known to associate with morels in this area are tulip poplars, ash (both white and green), hickory, dead or dying elms, cherry, apple, striped maple, grapevines and sycamore. There are many more trees morels are known to associate with across the country. It may well be that some of the morels found locally are actually growing in association with these other trees, though people may be unaware of which species the trees are due to their inability to properly identify them. The most common tree people look for morels under in the DC area is the tulip poplar, but you can add to your haul if you learn to identify and look under other species of trees such as white or green ash, and dead or dying American elm. The other trees listed are not usually found in large stands like tulip poplars, but they may be in small groups or mixed in or adjacent to the poplars. In some sections of Maryland and Pennsylvania there have been reports of morels being found in mixed tulip poplar/ white pine woods; in other parts of the country morels have been found in exclusive white pine woods. It may pay to look under white pines in this area especially if they are mixed with or adjacent to tulip poplar woods. In some other areas of the country, usually the western US, morels can often be found in burned areas. Since the tulip polar habitat is most abundant in the MDIDC area, the suggestions that follow are geared toward finding morels in this habitat. Even though the suggestions are geared toward tulip polar woods, if one finds the other trees listed above, the same indicators and methods will also apply.

Morel fruiting in this area can occur as early as late March and can last until mid to late May in higher locations. The season for the black morel occurs first and lasts about three weeks. The season for the yellows or whites comes next and can last about four weeks. These seasons usually overlap, with the yellow morels beginning to fruit as the season for the black morel draws to an end. The season for M semilibera usually overlaps the seasons for black and yellow morels. Most years the peak times are from about April 10th to May 10th. Morels usually begin to fruit in the greater DC and surrounding area a week or so before they do in the Shenandoah area of Virginia or mountainous areas of Maryland.

Morels can grow in a variety of soils from sandy to clay. Some books claim that the soil pH needs to be on the alkaline side with at least a pH of 7.1. However, when soil samples from across the US were collected in 2004 in conjunction with the MDCP, only three had pH above 7.0, and three samples from the Front Royal/Luray area of Virginia had pH readings of 4.4,5.3, and 5.8. I’ll leave it up to the reader as to what to believe the proper pH is.

No matter which name you want to use or what type of morel you are looking for, there are some tips, suggestions, and signs that may aid your efforts. The most important item is to look in the proper habitat. You are not likely to find morels in pine woods in this area with the possible exception of white pine. They are however found in the piney woods of eastern Texas. Probably the best habitat to search in this area is tulip poplar forests with few other trees mixed in. If you find a stand of almost pure tulip poplars, the leaves form a paper-like ground cover that is easier to see morels against than one with a fluffier layer of leaves. For aid in tree identification you can look at http://www.MushroomExpert.com, which has a good section on tree identification. You could also go to your local library or ask someone knowledgeable on tree identification on one of your local mycological club forays. There can be a variety of other small plants or groundcover. Areas without much groundcover are easy to search, but you should also look in areas with moderate to heavy groundcover. It is harder to see morels in such an area, but it can be an indication of richer or moister soil and can be just as and perhaps more productive.

Moisture is a key determinant of morel growth just as it is with other mushrooms. Rainfall, including the preceding year, the months leading up to, and during morel season have a major impact on fruiting of morels. In order to grow, mycelium needs moisture over an extended period, not just during the season. In some years the rainfall and other conditions are so ideal that just about anyone can find bags full of morels. However, you can usually find some morels even in dry years if you know where to look. Spicebush, paw paws, or garlic mustard usually show where there is ample moisture, so looking for the areas with those plants or heavy groundcover can be helpful. If you find a morel make sure to make a mental note of what other vegetation or groundcover is nearby. It may help you find morels in others areas with similar conditions. Knowing this helps in identifying where there may be enough moisture to support morels. Natural swales and valleys are one good place to look because water always runs downhill. The floodplains of small streams are another. Even small depressions can hold enough extra moisture to produce morels. The place where a steep slope meets relatively level ground is another potential good spot. Not only does water tend to accumulate in such places, so does organic material. This leads to more moisture retention and a potential food source for the morel mycelium. There are spots where the underlying bedrock is solid enough that water from rainfall even months ago that has seeped downhill and accumulated will be sufficient to produce morels under even the driest conditions. Learn to recognize and remember places like this. This can be a matter of trial and error, but there are methods that may help identify such an area. Poking a stick into the soil and seeing how much moisture adheres to it is one method to tell moisture content; use of a finger is another. Watching to see if annual plants are wilting in most areas but not in others can show the presence of underground sources of moisture. Springheads are often good places to look for morels. Areas with many loose rocks on the surface may indicate that there may be loose soil and crevices for water to drain away from the surface. Not only is it hard walking in such places, but also it may be too dry for good morel production.

Soil temperature is important for morel growth. The most currently accepted theory is that morels begin to fruit when the soil reaches a consistent temperature of about 53° Fahrenheit. Many say that when you have a week of nighttime temperatures in the 50’s, morels should begin to grow. Morels begin to fruit in controlled conditions near this temperature, and this is consistent with the soil temperature of morels grown commercially. It is by no means an exact temperature, but can be used as a guideline. Soil temperatures can fluctuate greatly, even within a few hours. Readings taken in the same spot at the same depth five hours apart have varied by as much as 8° F. Even differing amounts of leaf litter or ground cover can affect the ability of the soil to warm or hold warmth from one spot to another only inches away. Soil warms from both underground and above ground temperatures. Several feet beneath the surface all the soil is the same temperature, as evidenced by constant temperatures in area caverns. The amount of sunlight and the air temperature both day and night are factors. Soil temperature readings taken in 2004 over a period of two weeks did not register a morning soil temperature above 52° F until the last day. One person reported finding over 30 pounds of morels that year but very few under the tulip poplars that usually produce the largest yields. If you want to take your own soil temperature readings, be consistent. Use a probe type of thermometer, preferably digital. Place the probe the same depth each time for your primary reading. Use the same spot each day and take the reading as close to the same time. Also try taking a series of readings at different depths, say 6 inches, 4 inches, and 2 inches. The observed temperatures can vary by several degrees. Note whether the sun is shining or if it’s cloudy. Keep a log to track your readings. Note when you find morels. As you become familiar with the temperatures when you find morels, you can just probe the ground in new areas to see if they are close to what they were when you found them elsewhere.

Another method for judging when conditions are right for morels is to use natural indicators. There are many plants and trees that begin to grow, bloom, leaf out, etc. at about the same time you are likely to find morels. It is said that the time to look for morels, especially white or yellow morels, is when the oak leaves reach the size of a squirrel’s ear. If you use these indicators for yellow morels, use the preceding stage of plant growth to know when you are likely to find black morels; i.e., instead of using when something is in bloom, use the stage when it is in bud.

Other indicators are:

  • When the mayapples start to flatten out
  • When the redbuds are in bloom
  • When the tulip poplar leaves are the sizes of a silver dollar
  • When the flowering quince blooms
  • When the garlic mustard forms little broccoli-like heads prior to blooming. (It is also very good to eat at this stage)
  • When the dogwoods bloom
  • When the showy orchid is in bloom, it is the peak of white or yellow morel season
  • When you see squaw root, it is near the end of morel season
  • When the violets bloom
  • When the ash tree leaves begin to show green
  • When the spicebush has leaves
  • When the trillium blooms

These are some of the indicators that many MAW members and others use as guidelines to when morels should be fruiting. There are likely many more that are used that have not been listed. Make written or mental notes each year when you do find morels. Keeping a calendar with written entries is a good idea. Record time, date, place, trees, temperature of both soil and air, ground cover, other plants in the area, what else is blooming, the amount of moisture, recent rainfall, amount and type collected, and of course location. Many prefer to do this in their heads, especially after gaining years of experience; but if you are new to collecting morels, it really helps to write your observations. It also helps you enjoy the other beauties of Nature while you’re out there.

There is yet another way to tell when it is time to look for morels. It is perhaps the easiest and fastest way-using the Internet. The following sites have listings of reported morel finds and two of them have public discussion boards as well: http://www.morelmania.com has a sightings button on their main web page. http://www.mushroomexpert.com has progress maps and a public morel discussion board. http://www.morelmushroomhuntingclub.com has both a public discussion board and mushroom finds page.

Geographical layout, elevation, and other items can influence whether the temperature is right for morels. South, east, and southeastern facing slopes receive more sun than those facing other directions. It is these slopes that are the first to warm in the springtime. Even in these areas, there may be spots that slope a little differently and can cause morels to fruit weeks apart. Higher elevations are subject to lower nighttime temperatures and take longer to warm up in the spring. The amount of trees or shrubs present can act as shade and present mini-climates. This is one of the reasons that not all morels in an area fruit at once. Logs and rocks on the ground can act to reflect sunlight and warm the soil near them faster than just a foot or two away. The logs also act to prevent surface evaporation. It is good practice to look next to these. Logs and rocks also tend to concentrate any rainfall that hits the ground around their drip line more so than open areas. Make sure to look carefully near such objects, especially if you’re in a known morel producing area. In the mountainous sections of Virginia and Maryland morels don’t always start at the bottom of the hill and work up. Often morels begin to fruit partway up the slopes. This is caused both because the higher elevations have lower nighttime temperatures and also because cold air flows downhill and settles in the valleys, possibly making them take longer to warm up each day. Knowledgeable morel hunters know spots and slopes where this happens on a consistent basis. A good topographical map or GPS can help you determine the elevation at which you are finding morels. Once this is known, you have a good chance of finding morels in other local areas with the same approximate slope and elevation. West and north facing slopes should generally be searched later in the season, but remember, this is not a hard fast rule. You should always scout new areas each year or each trip if possible. Just as elevation can be a factor, so can latitude. The further north you go, the later the season tends to be.

Once you have learned how to identify the proper habitat, judge the proper soil moisture content, and soil temperature, it is time to learn how to spot morels. Begin by looking at pictures of morels in books or other photos. You can put pictures of morels next to your computer, work desk, or other place they will be seen often. This can help imprint the image in your mind. Some go as far as placing dried morels around the home or yard to get used to ‘seeing’ them. The more morels you collect, the better the image will be in your mind and the better you will be at spotting them. Don’t be discouraged if you have a hard time the first few times you foray for them. You will get better the more often you find them. Learn how to ‘scan’ instead of staring. Scanning is kind of letting your eyes focus, but not quite. It is more of a quick focus on one area and then another adjacent area without staring at just one spot for more than a few seconds. Once you find a morel you can switch to more intense search of an area. Learn what distance your eyes can ‘scan’ the best, say from 5-10 feet or 8-12 feet, and concentrate on that distance. Individuals’ optimal eyesight range can vary significantly. Look just above the ground level. Walk slowly through likely habitat stopping every 5 to 10 feet and scanning the ground around you. Look at a spot, move your eyes a few feet, look again, etc. Then walk another 5 to 10 feet and repeat. It helps to scan as you walk. Stooping down and looking puts your eyes closer to the ground, and it is easier to spot morels sticking up above the leaves. It is said that small children make great morel spotters due to their eyes being closer to the ground. You should also look near the base of the trees. Morels can be right next to the trunk and from there to 10 feet away, sometimes farther. Some people stoop with their backs to the tree and scan from there. Another method to do a quick search of woods is to walk to a large tree, do a quick scan out to about 5 feet, and proceed to the next large tree and repeat. You can skip the ground in between if you want to scout a new area. You may miss a few morels this way, but can cover more ground and hopefully find new areas they are fruiting. Once you find some, then you can switch back to a more intensive search. It is usually better to begin your search at the lowest point and work your way uphill. This puts your eyes closer to the slope making it easier to spot morels. Another tip to use is to stop and mark the first morel with a stick, handkerchief, stone or other object once you spot one. Look all around yourself and see if you can spot others. Often, you will even spot them behind you that you missed. If you see several in different directions you can use small sticks and point them towards each morel. At times morels can be seen from only one direction and it helps to be able to go back to where you first spotted it and look again. Working outward from your original spot is another good method. Save the first one you spotted until you are confident you have found all the morels in an area.

Walking sticks can be used for more than one purpose. As stated above, they can be used to pinpoint where you first spot a morel and test for soil moisture. They aid in climbing hills and can prevent nasty falls. They can also be used going downhill or crossing small streams or logs. A walking stick may feel comfortable if it is just above waist height, but one about chin height is better suited for going downhill or crossing streams and logs. It easy to leave a walking stick behind, so keeping the stick at the first morel spotted gives you a reason to remember not to leave it or the morel behind.

When you are picking morels, practice a certain amount of etiquette. If someone nearby finds a morel it is not an invitation to come pick in the same spot, unless asked to do so. You should give the person at least 10-15 feet of room and perhaps more. If several people are foraying together each person should be aware of the other morel hunters around them and try not to cross in front of them if at all possible. At times you might have to go around fallen trees or thick vegetation such that crossing can’t be avoided. It can be helpful in a group setting to walk in the same general direction much of the time, unless you find an area where morels are fruiting. If you meet someone who is not part of your group, a quick ‘hello’ or ‘how are you doing’ can be appropriate. Inevitably paths will cross at times, but since most morel hunting is on public land, no one has more of a right to pick morels than another does. Some like to shout ‘bingo’ when they find a morel. This can encourage others that you may be foraying with that morels are in the area. If you are in an area with people you don’t know, it may not be wise to shout this or you may have them come and ‘share’ your spot. Remember this variation of the Golden Rule. Treat other morel hunters, as you would like to have them treat you.

So in conclusion, make sure you look in the proper habitat, judge the moisture, temperature, and other conditions to ensure a relatively good chance at finding morels. Learn to read Nature’s signs and record them either on paper or in your head. The more time you spend looking for morels, the more likely you are to become familiar with the conditions that help to ensure success.

Morchella esculentoides 3
Morchella esculentoides by Walt Sturgeon

This article was written by Tim Geho, with input from the following people who assisted with suggestions, comments, proofreading, and content:

Ray LaSala
Larry Goldschmidt
Dr.Michael Kuo
Jody Roberts

Also special thanks to the web sites of: http://www.mushroomexpert.com, http://www.morelmushroomhuntingclub.com and http://www.morelmania.com for permission to reference their sites.

All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced or distributed without specific permission.

An Artist’s View of Mushrooms

I only recently became aware of the work of one of our members, Alan McClelland, by a post he made to the OMS Yahoo Group. Online Alan uses the design/photography moniker eye.lyft (meaning visual elevation) and maintains a personal blog of his work from both the past and present. Alan is a freelance graphics artist by trade which gives him a perspective on the world of fungi that others may not always see or appreciate. He is also a passionate nature photographer at heart and has been capturing nature with his camera lens throughout Ohio for over a decade now. Since joining OMS in the summer 2010, he has transitioned his primary focus on the world of Fungi and has been working on several seasonal series up to this very day. Alan has graciously agreed to allow me to share his work here and I plan to highlight his Forgotten Wonders Beneath the Trees series for the future enjoyment of our mycological enthusiasts and future fungaphiles!

Forgotten Wonders Beneath the Trees.
by eye.lyft

Autumnal series I slideshow

“This is the fourth installment of this five part series that I captured between early September to early October of 2011. Ever enchanting colors unfold on the forest floor as the leaves start to slowly decay with wonderful richness. Much like late summer, fungi continues to flourish and fruit in the Allegheny Plateau and Till Regions of Ohio. Old growth Forest preserves and Hocking Hills Valley proved to be best for finding a vast variety of species especially. This series was captured at Clear Creek Metro Park, Wahkeena Preserve, Cedar Falls, Nelson-Kennedy Ledges, and the Rose Lake area located within Hocking Hills State Park.”


Boletus rubellus

Cortinarius iodes
© All rights reserved by
eyelyft

Inocybe geophylla var. lilacina