The spring morel season Hoosiers are plodding
through is the strangest I have ever encountered. And, if the things I
am hearing from other “morellers” can be used as a yardstick for measuring
such things, it also is the worst (as in non-productive).
Early in April I heard some reports of success
from mushroom hunters of the southern third of the state, and a few reports
have straggled in from morellers of the central part of the state and as
far north as Muncie. But, all things considered, it has been a very slow
spring for morel hunting . . . so slow, indeed, that a post-mortem of the
season is very much in order.
For example, my favorite Boone County mushroom
woods have, as of this writing (May 1), produced only three morels for
me. A good moreller who hunts the same area had found only three.
To further complicate my view of the proceeding,
two of the three morels I found roughly 10 days ago were yellow morels
of fair size, and the day I found them conditions of the woods indicated
I should have been finding small grays and blacks, but certainly not yellows.
However, those two morels were found within spittin’
distance of a spot where I had found a good patch of yellows (roughly two
weeks later) last year.
Putting it all together in my mind--or what is
left of it--there are some reasons to believe that you can’t be sure of
any of the signs morel hunters have heretofore thought to be self-evident,
For further example, when the floor of my favorite
woodland turned white with the blossoms of spring beauty, I expected to
find chubby little gray morels in their old haunts, and skinny blacks along
the canopied creek where the soil is always black and moist at this time
of year. But I found neither . . . not a single little gray or black.
"Perhaps I am (as always) just a bit early . .
. trying to push the season," I told myself, adding that I would try it
again in a few days. That I did. But the results were the same (not a trace
of a morel), and by this time cut-leaved toothwort and spring beauty, were
going to seed. On the first of the two outings, I also had noted a dearth
of yellow trout lily blossoms although these plants had foliated well.
On the second trip the few trout lily plants that had flowered were bearing
seedpods. Now, even everybody’s favorite indicator--the bloom of lilacs--comes
Almost a week after the second of my two big efforts,
I had to try it again to see if I could make some sense out of the situation
. . . perhaps even find a late emergence of “big yaller.” This trip also
was a bust, but as I left the woods I found a small version of the big
woods mushroom that normally signs off the morel season. The one I found
was considerably smaller than the big woods mushroom that sports a large,
wrinkled stem with a large, spearhead-type cap that is attached to the
stem at its outer perimeter (the bottom). This mushroom was so far over
the hill that I left it there after a picture session. But I noticed that
the stem appeared, and felt, smooth and firm at the bottom, but mealy
and course (like the semilibera spearhead) closer to the cap. This
one must have been more than six inches tall, but still small in comparison
to others of the species I have seen in the past.
So where does the spring morel season stand now?
By my old standards, it could very well be that
the spring morel season is headed for the archives, at least in Central
and Southern Indiana. Yet, like those who stayed to see Mighty Casey thrash
the third-strike air (apologies to Ernest L. Thayer, author of “Casey At
The Bat”), something inside tells me that last weekend’s rain--and those
we are predicted to get this week--may parlay with warmer temperatures
in the next week or so to salvage an emergence of big yallers . . . and,
who knows, what other morel species. Alternatively, it could be that,
untrue to age-old thinking, various species of morels pop when the northward-moving
sun pushes the “GO” button--regardless of weather conditions. It could
also be that those coolish days of late March and early April kept us on
the couch when we should have been in the woods.
Time will tell . . . and in short order. But if
we don’t have some luck in the next week or so, tried-and-true morel indicators
of the past must face reevaluation.
on thumbnail image for enlarged view.
smallish version of the big woods morel, which normally signals the end
of the mushroom season, was one of only three mushrooms I have found in
this strange spring.