by Brady Raymond
- 55 degrees
They’re here, they’re here! I have officially found my first Morel of the season, seven to be more precise and they were as delicious as I had remembered. I can still taste their delectable flavor and can rest easy in knowing that the essence of the Morel now resides in my body, helping to build the future me. We have bonded, man and fungus. Wait, I’m not sure if that sounds right but it is essentially true, this is a fungal infection I hope sticks around for a while.
Erin and I hit up the same spots as last week and to our surprise there were less mushrooms this time around. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’s the calm before the storm and next week the Morels will hopefully be in full swing at mid elevation. I did find a few more Oyster mushrooms and managed to snap a shot of them this time too (pictured above).
We also looked a little higher at around 4,000ft, not expecting to find much but always hoping for something. Things looked surprisingly good, there were a number of different mushroom species growing. They seemed to be the usual players for the most part, unfortunately I do not know their names, but all looked familiar. There were of course Gyromitra, I think some Pholiota and the usual conks and LBM’s. Snow was present but not in any quantity that couldn’t be melted and gone in a week or so (of coarse it could still snow more, I choose to be optimistic though).
If it doesn’t rain in the next week, I wonder if the remaining snow melt may be enough moister to trigger the growth of Morels. Yet who knows, maybe it will keep the ground too cold and actually take longer for the Morels to grow in the spots where the snow last remained. It would be interesting to have flagged all the snow patches and go back to those spots in the coming weeks and see what if anything happens either positive or negative on the fruiting potential of Morels.
I reached out for help trying to figure out the two mushrooms pictured above. It should be stated for those of you new to mushrooming that trying to identify with a photo alone is a notoriously difficult thing to do. A detailed study of a physical specimen is needed in many instances for positive identification and sometimes even then you may only get to the genus. I was given a couple of leads with the caveat of all the above stated. The mushroom on top has the look of Pachylepyrium carbonicola which according to Danny Miller should have a “very red spore deposit.” Unfortunately I did not get a spore print but I do recall seeing some spores on my fingers after handling them and they did seem reddish brown. This is not enough for a positive ID but a reasonable guess it seems.
The mushrooms at the bottom seemed familiar to me and I thought they may be a type of Pholiota, Danny seemed to agree and suggested Pholiota highlandensis. This is a fairly common mushroom and like the mushroom above occurs on burnt ground, this area did burn a few years ago.
It would have been helpful had I collected the specimens or even just wrote down some good field notes, but mushroom hunting has changed for Erin and I since the birth of our daughter. Seemingly simple things take on a new level of complexity when you’re caring for a child. Throw in a our Jack Russell on this outing and our hands were full.
So, no luck at the higher elevation for Morels but when you go up you must come back down and so we decided to hit up one last spot on the way home. As we arrived I looked down at the altimeter, it read 1,800ft. I was a little surprised at the elevation, I would have guessed we were a little higher but we hadn’t stopped in this spot the last year or two. I’d give it a try, hop into the thicket and see what there was to discover.
I stepped into the vegetation, walking slowly, actively scanning the ground. Hunting Morels is a tricky business, you can look to fast or to slow. There is a balance of speed and acuity that must be practiced if you intend to spot one of these little suckers. With a keen eye I finally made contact with my first two Morels of 2017! They were nestled in the center of a brushy crown, only observable at a small angle from my current approach. If I would have stumbled on a fallen limb or rock just a short distance earlier it may have been enough to alter the course of my finding them entirely.