Outdoors Column: The Secret to Finding Mushrooms

In our part of the country, now is the time to find and enjoy morel mushrooms. As easy as that sounds, it can be difficult to locate them at times. What we need is a complete guide to when and where to find these gourmet delicacies.


The when part of the equation is fairly simple. The ground temperature has to be above fifty degrees and the soil needs to be at least moist. I usually determine the timing is right after I go out too soon, get scratches, ticks, and bug bites while finding nothing. I then wait for a “reliable” source to say the mushrooms have sprouted before going out again. The key word here is reliable. There is always someone who will post a picture in March claiming they found a nice batch when actually the picture is from last year in May. Some people are just plain mean. Once the timing is determined; location is the next challenge.


Over many years of hunting the elusive moral mushroom, I have picked up hints from old timers and beginners alike. Having a rather logical mind, I was sure a scientific method could be devised so I could just walk out into the woods, pick all the mushrooms I need, and go home with a minimal number of encounters with chiggars and ticks. One thing I have always heard is mushrooms grow near dead elm trees. When elm trees die, they quickly lose their bark, so they are easy to identify. Morels are supposed to grow on north facing creek banks. This would make since as they do not need sunlight for photosynthesis and a south side of a creek facing north will remain moist longer than the opposite side. Mayflowers are supposed to be a good indicator of where to find mushrooms as they require a similar amount of moisture and light. I have recently heard mushrooms can be found near partially dead cottonwood trees. In a person’s mind, all this information can be organized so it should be easier to get all the mushrooms a person needs.



Saturday, my grandson called saying he was down by the bridge and was finding mushrooms. The temperature had been warm for several days and we have had a few rains. The ground should be warm and moist, perfect for morel production. I headed out, collecting bag in hand, with great anticipation. I started out near a dead elm tree. I searched diligently with no luck. I found a partially dead cottonwood tree that also had nothing around it except rose bushes and ticks. I started walking down the creek, concentrating on the south bank. I finally found two mushrooms, which was not great but encouraging. It was also two more than I had found so far this year. I walked farther into the woods and found a patch of mayflowers. They were growing in moist rich soil, but no mushrooms were with them. In spite of my bug repellant, wood ticks were collecting on my clothes and exposed skin. I was ready to take my two mushrooms and go home when I walked by a huge old hedge tree where the ground was fairly dry. Glancing under the low hanging branches, I saw morel mushrooms everywhere. This was not a good place for them to grow, according to conventional wisdom, but this is where they were. My sack was half full in just a few minutes.


I have come to the conclusion; morel mushrooms grow where you find them. There is no scientific was way of predicting where that might be.