About 15 years ago, not long after moving down to VA, my friend and i were hiking through our woods and stumbled upon a morel patch. She was the first to notice them, and once we'd seen one the other just seemed magically begin appearing. This was the beginning of my morel hunting addiction.
Every year since then, i've gone out in the early spring morel hunting. That original magical patch dried up years ago, but we have learned what to look for and when to look and over the years have found several new patches.
Morels need very specific conditions in order to grow. The soil temperature has to be perfect, and there are several things to look for that hint towards the perfect time. Once the bloodroot begins to bloom i start looking for the trillium and mayapples.
Toadshade Trillium was the first to appear. So i started walking through the wood each day looking for a sign of the morels.
Then the Red trillium aka Stinking Benjamin, started popping up, along with the mayapples. As soon as i saw the trillium and mayapples coming up, i knew the temps were right. We had a several days of rain, and everything seemed to be popping up overnight. This is the best indication that the soil temp is perfect, and the rais is what really gets them going.
i went out hiking in the rain to my favorite spots to look for the elusive morel. i saw several of these orange newts, which is another good indication that the soil temp is correct. Last year i found a bunch of these guys and while squatting down to get a picture of one i found the morels. So now i think of these guys as the morel guardians since i always seem to find them in the same area that i find the mushrooms.
Last year i stumbled upon a honey hole. So as soon as i noticed the right conditions i started checking for morels. i've been going out almost every day, but not finding any. After looking back at some older posts i knew that i've typically found them around April 30th- May 5th, but the flowers are blooming earlier this year. So the mushrooms should be here. i scoured the area, but didn't find a thing, just as i'm about to give up i look down and see it.
As always once you see that first one, the the others just sort of magically appear. They were small, and extremely difficult to find. i left several that were too small to pick and will check again in a few days after they've had some time to grow.
Morel hunting has become a favorite family activity in the spring. The kids are great at spotting the morels and can recognize the different flowers, knows most of their names, and are learning all the signs of when and where to start looking for morels.
There are very few other fungus that look like morels, so identification is easy. However, if you've never hunted morels before make sure and familiarize yourself with false morels and other look-a-likes. You can find a bit of info on knowing the difference here . The most obvious difference is that morels are hollow. Both the cap and the stem is hollow. So if you are unsure if you have a morel or a false morel, split the stem in half. The false morel will be full of cottony fiber and plant tissues, while the morel is smooth and hollow. Never consume any wild mushroom unless you are 100% sure of what it is.
Happy Mushroom hunting!