By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Memorable morel moments
Morel through nut
A morel strand grew through a gnawed hickory nut shell and enlarged into a mushroom
Elm bark carrier
A piece of elm tree bark, easily found at the base of dead elms, makes a convenient "boat" to carry or display morel mushrooms

Morel mushroom foray fanatics would like to forget 2021 and 2022 hoping 2023 will be the year that closes the book on “what the heck happened?  Why aren’t we finding any mushrooms in obvious locations?”

Looking back a few decays, even a half century, there are other woodland happenings that pop to mind being as memorable as finding that motherlode while climbing, sometimes crawling, up a steep slope.

A year after dropping the lens cap to a 50mm macro lens (sometimes early morels are tiny) and having my son find it when he went to pick what would be the first morels of that next year still amazes me.  But should it?  Morel “patches” are usually revisited year-after-year even though the fungus generally appears no more than three consecutive seasons by the same tree.

Morel on small birch log
These eight morel mushrooms grew out of a small birch logs

A cave entrance not large enough for a morel man, but maybe a raccoon, to enter a fissure still stands out as an oddity.  Guarding the opening stood a seven-inch mushroom beside a smaller fruiting body.  Roots of nearby trees no doubt were just below the soil and debris and were enough to feed the fungi.

Birch logs, except for the fire-ready bark, are quick to decompose.  Somehow morel mycelium (the fungi’s life blood of tissues) grew inside the white bark and then, after mating with another, grew out the end of the small log and formed what we pick and recognize as fungal fruiting bodies.  Quite a cluster of them, too.

Ecology’s food web took several steps, beginning with a shagbark hickory blooming, being pollinated, fertilized, fruiting, and dropped a nut, which was gnawed into by a field mouse and then lay waiting for an underground fungus to poke through the mouse’s gawnings in the nut’s shell and out the other side through another hole.  The hyphae produced a morel, albeit squeezed by the size of the in and out holes in the seed’s shell. 

A perched barred owl provided a perfect picture of new, greening leaves, enough so that a truck stopped, the right window rolled open, and a large telephoto lens helped capture a morning-washed image.  The bird stayed put so long that the driver’s eyes scanned and then focused on a “maybe worth looking” morel location.  Sure enough, and for 3-4 following springs, without stopping for an owl, the truck coasted to a standstill, passengers stepped out and picked morels beside a rotting round hay bale.   

Street elms, even those on campuses, have been disappearing one by one for a half century.  The largest of these were some of the first to go, having grown for decades in concert with fungus that helped to feed both the tree and the mold itself.  

Large campus heating ducts deliver warmth to campus buildings from the campus’s heart, the heating plant.  The heating plant and conducting system is not 100 percent efficient and heat escapes the tunnel, warms the soil where the elms’ roots grew and the fungal hyphae made connections.  

An amble through a campus, even a year or more after the dead elm is gone and the stump grinder has cleared the area, morels appeared and they were weeks ahead of the beginning of an ordinary mushroom season. This fungal flush was brought about by campus buildings needing heat, some of which escaped and warmed the soil and woke up the mycelium.

Been caught in a woods without a morel bag?  A curved piece of elm bark, many under every dead elm, makes a near perfect “boat” to transport 50-75 mushrooms a few hundred yards back to the truck. 

This same “boat” makes a perfect container to feature dried morels decorating an abode.

Poor seasons, or not, still provide surprises, learning experiences, and tales to tell long after the morels are eaten.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at or 608.924.1112.