"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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2005 Morel Season Strangest of Them All
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

Having watched spring morel seasons come and go in central Indiana for more than 50 years, I would have to declare this springís season the strangest of them all. 

As we all know, the spring morel season is closely tied to weather conditions--especially air temperatures and moisture in the earth. We observed a good illustration of this point last spring when temperatures were right but the earth was very dry in mid-April when the early wildflower bloom told us little black and gray mushrooms were up. The little blacks and grays werenít there probably because of a lack of moisture in the earth. Bad conditions turned to worse when rains came and temperatures dropped when the late mushrooms, larger grays and big yellow morels, were due early in May. 

Two weeks ago when the early bloom of wildflowers hit, there was adequate moisture in the woodlands and temperatures were right for little blacks and grays. But they didnít show, and it was getting dry in the woodlands when the big rains came throughout most of the state on April 22-23.

 Dyed-in-the-wool mushroom hunters, including yours truly, saw those rains as a reliable cue for the grand entrance of little grays and blacks. The rains did, indeed, bring up morels--big yellows (yallers), the one with the large, wrinkled stem. 

This, of course, told me that the season for little grays and blacks had slipped by, a sad but true conclusion. But last week, in the face of those cold nights, little grays made their late-but-welcome debut (still no blacks, though, and only a few spearheads). As the week progressed the grays became larger, but still a far cry from a normal mushroom spring. 

A strange set of mushroom-hunting circumstances, to say the least. And now we can only wonder if the big yallers will join the circus when projected warmer day/night temperatures come this weekend (May 7 - 8). I, for one, will not be surprised--whatever the outcome. 

Perhaps these earlier goings-on were foretold by the absence of yet another spring fungi . . . Dryadís Saddle (Polyporus squamosus), usually found on the sides of dead  trees. This shelf mushroom was showing up in modest size last weekend, but it has been conspicuous by its absence in the early part of the mushroom season. 

Incidentally, our morel safaris last weekend also brought the find of our first sighting of the barn-red false morel (Gyromitra gigas). Folks who are not real familiar with fungi become more than somewhat alarmed at the prospects of someone mistaking the false morel  (said to be poisonous), for the edible morels, but there is no way a member of  the false morel clan can be mistaken for a member of our beloved morel  family. 

Click on thubnail image for enlarged view.

bigmorel.jpg (27407 bytes)
This true morel, a darling of mycologists in Indiana, could never be confused with the false  morel. 
falsemorel.jpg (20697 bytes)
False morels, said to be poisonous, do not look like true morels in any way.

SENIOR LICENSE FAILS--Provisions of House Bill (HB) 1765 that would have set up an inexpensive fishing license for Hoosiers 60 years old and older were removed last week in the Indiana General Assembly. 

This is the fourth consecutive year the matter has failed, and it could be the death knell of efforts to establish a license for seniors to bring additional federal funding to the Division of Fish and Wildlife for fisheries programs. 

The rationale for creating an inexpensive license for seniors revolves around the fact that federal funding for fisheries programs are pro rated on the number of fishing licenses sold by each state. Because Hoosier seniors fish free--without a license--our state fisheries agency receives somewhere between $600,000 and $800,000 per year less than it would receive if seniors were required to buy a fishing license.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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