by Brady Raymond
- 50 degrees, partial sun to drizzle-light rain
I have a problem, I’m addicted to Morels. Erin and I have put some serious miles down the last two weekends, driving up and down mountain passes and zig zagging our way through forest service roads. The urge is unbearable, one that is only quelled slightly by the meager yields we have so far harvested. Twenty-one Morels this weekend, that brings our total for the season of twenty-eight.
“Brady” I said to myself “it’s not a competition, relax, enjoy the hunt.” But, it is a competition and I’m at twenty-eight. Lots of people have found more than me, and they laugh at my season total. These folks have accumulated more weight in spores than I have in the spore bearer. There is a good chance though that the average person among me has found none and I relish in this fact.
Mushroom hunting isn’t really a competition but anyone who’s done it knows how guarded and secretive you get when questioned about the subject. I imagine that this traces back to ancient times, to protect what is yours and when you poses so few things it would seem this behavior may be stronger especially when regarding something so tantamount to survival as a food source.
Morels are my favorite mushroom, there is just something about them. They look cool and taste delicious. There are enough of them that you will probably find a few but not so many that it is easy (burns aside). The beauty of mushroom hunting is that you can do it relatively cheaply when compared to other outdoor pursuits. You don’t need a lot of special gear but most likely you will acquire tools that aide in your search over the course of many seasons. If you are completely new to mushroom hunting check out these articles So You Want to Hunt Mushrooms and Where to Start, Tips and Tools for Learning Mushrooms.
We decided on checking out a new spot after finding some Morels at 1800ft. It didn’t take long for us to gain elevation and we pulled over around 3000ft. This area looked extremely good, moister levels were high and it would seem that if we were to have a solid week of warm weather Morels should be popping up here very soon.
There were not many mushrooms at first glance but the forest floor was covered in Letharia vulpina, a bright green lichen that most of you are probably familiar with. This is a good lichen to dye with so Erin and I collected a bags worth that she is planning on using at Mushroom Maynia for the dye demonstration. It didn’t take long and we started finding some mushrooms. There were some Gyromitra, a few puffballs and a couple of mushrooms that were so small I didn’t even attempt to photograph them.
Erin stumbled upon the mushrooms pictured below, and there were hundreds if not a thousand or more growing all over in a small area. My first thought was Galerina but I was not convinced and still am not. The next best thing I could come up with was Pholiota possibly Pholiota lignicola. Only after taking a spore print when I got home did that possibility make itself evident to me upon seeing that the spores were brown. The problem with either of the two mentioned names is that those two mushrooms typically fruit on rotting wood, these mushrooms were fruiting out of a mossy duff, covered in leaves and pine needles. My next guess would be Cortinarius, although I’m not patient enough to try and key it out if it is.
Maybe I’m missing something obvious here, yet I feel like I’m on the right track but in trying to keep these articles timely I will have to forgo a positive ID. I don’t claim to be a mushroom expert, not even close, writing for this blog though has really helped me in wanting to take what ID skills I have to the next level. You don’t have to ID every mushroom to appreciate their diversity and beauty, although if you plan on eating wild mushrooms having a positive ID is extremely important. If the mushrooms photographed below are Galerina than they are a deadly species and not one to mistake for something edible.
Lucky for me I only really eat a handful of species, none of which I would mistake with Galerina but if you are someone who enjoys things psychedelic make sure you learn about deadly Galerina. Psilocybe and Galerina often time grow right next to one and other, they look similar to each other at least superficially and newbies should exercise extreme caution. There are obvious differences if you know what to look for that I wont go into here as any reputable ID book will have a good description of both genus’.
If you haven’t got out yet to find some Morels this season that’s probably ok, I think the next week or two things will be just getting into gear and that’s when the fun really begins. If you do get out in the coming weeks make sure whether you’re finding Morels or not to look out for other interesting mushrooms. Have fun, good luck and stay out of my spots.