by Brady Raymond
- 55 degrees
My expectations weren’t too high setting out this last Saturday, but I had an inkling that fungi flourished on the Eastern slope of the Cascades. Many of my friends and family were finding Morels back in Southern Michigan and that got the bug in me enough to head out and poke around a few of our regular spots. We decided to gauge what conditions were like at 1800-2800ft. east of the pass. The temperature still seemed a bit cool but moisture levels seemed good.
We lucked out early on in the day and found a nice handful of oyster mushrooms. I found them on a dead Cottonwood tree, which I think makes them Pleurotus populinus. We had them for breakfast the next morning with some eggs, the flavor was good yet they seemed more substantial than the ones we usually find growing on dead Alder trees.
Not long after finding the oysters Erin fell for the Verpa trap. She called me over gleefully pointing to a mushroom on the side of the road poking out of the gravel standing tall and proud. I admit that I too was fooled, but immediately upon picking the little fella I knew the Verpa truth. But, the truth is Verpa bohememica and other “False Morels” are typically a good indicator for Morels, and in this case I believe them to be a precursor to the bounty soon to be had.
We decided to ascend up in a nearby valley, to see what our luck would be like a little higher. As Erin parked the car, I checked the altimeter, it read 2840ft. After getting our bearings it didn’t take long for us to stumble upon our first Gyromitra of the day..
We found what I think are two species of Gyromitra, G. montana and G. perlata. Both of these species were growing in the same areas and in a few instances very close to one another. All were near to an old stump and/or other woody debris. There were a few patches of snow throughout the forest but neither of the two species we found lived up to their snowbank reputation. Although, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine snow even just a few days ago carpeting the forest floor.
If you plan on heading out to look for some Morels in the coming weeks make sure to read a bit about some of the other Ascomycota fungi that you’re sure to find. False Morels like Verpa and Gyromitra are just some of the interesting mushrooms in this Phylum which also includes Peziza, Helvella and Sarcosoma to name a few. The vast majority of Ascomycetes exist as yeasts, mildews and molds. Of these thousands of species relatively few exist as “mushrooms.”
For those of you into dyeing with mushrooms there are a few to be found in spring. Make sure to keep your eyes open for Dye Corts and Ramaria. If you are unfamiliar with what mycopigments are click on the links below.
Unfortunately Erin and I did not find any Morels on this outing, but what we did find was a forest that looked ready to burst. My guess is, we are probably only a week or two away from finding our first Morel of 2017. And I would imagine a number of them have already been found just a little lower in elevation. And who knows maybe the great haul was just over yonder if we’d have kept looking.