2021 Morel Season Update
Updated: May 12
If you haven’t gotten the chance to get out and look for morels yet, or you have and you haven’t found anything, you might be wondering what the status is of the morel season so far. Facebook will make it appear as if there are piles of morels all over the place out there because a handful of folks post photos of massive hauls (like my picture above...sorry, couldn't resist). Days out in the woods will paint a different picture, however. This is a brief synopsis of what I’ve been seeing so far.
There are most definitely morels out there right now and quite a few at that. They are ranging from small greys and small blondes to big greys and big blondes. This means that we are in the early to middle part of the season. My rule of thumb is if it's not at least the size of your thumb or bigger, then leave it to get bigger.
The yellows and especially the big yellows are being found in very sunny areas that warm up fast. These are typically slopes, especially south facing, that get a lot of warmth and sunshine. Also sometimes river bottoms that both get a lot of sunshine and that possibly have some dense humus like soil that is generating some heat due to exothermic decomposition taking place. Southeast slopes and a couple river plains spots have produced well for me so far, whereas other areas have been less productive.
It is extremely dry out there people! This means that the morels that are fruiting are drying up--unless they are in areas that are very moist due to moving water, evaporation/condensation cycles of river or lake, or get a lot of dew. Though a study posted by NAMA found that rain did not have a big impact on whether or not morels fruited, they did not study the quality of those morels. I believe for a really good flush of nice mushrooms we do need more rain.
Soil temps are ideally in the 50’s for morels to fruit at 4 to 6 inches deep. Though we have had some unseasonably warm days to the point that some spots started fruiting morels in early to mid April (hence they are producing big blondes early now), we’ve had a largely chilly spring with a lot of nights in the 30’s. A map of soil temps of the spring has a couple spikes into the 50’s but hovers mostly in the 40’s even now. Last year, the season was like this: early rain and warmth looked good, cold snap for two weeks with no rain and it got really dry, then ample warmth and rain in mid to late May and we had morels growing from end of April to early June. So that bodes very well!
SANDY SOILS people! The dirt should be dark, loose and speckled with grains of sand that twinkle in the sunlight like tiny crystals. I've found that soil to support morels needs to drain well and be light. If it's the dense clay like soil you see in ash bogs and river bottoms, in my experience these types of soils are much less productive.
You gotta know what to look for and when to look! Here’s some pointers on when to get out in your area, look for signs like the lilacs blooming or when you’re in the woods make sure the cleavers are getting to be over 10 inches long with a large diameter of the six leaves. Also make sure you see some fully bloomed jack-in-the-pulpits! If you need more information, this article on timing should help.
You need to know how to identify trees, particularly elm trees are the most productive and that’s only when they are dead or dying. But not too dead. Read up on elm ID here.
Spend more time out in the woods. If you’re not finding them go to a different spot. If that different spot looks the same as the last spot, then you probably won’t find anything there either, so look for different types of topography. Particularly, I want to see a lot of growth and biodiversity in the understory: ferns, wildflowers, brambling bushes like raspberries, prickly ash or buckthorn (unfortunately), etc.
You gotta know how to identify a morel for sure. Here’s some tips for that. Don’t worry--this is by far the easiest part!