"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Spring Morel Season Is Strange
Copyright © 2006 by Bill Scifres

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, sure-fire stuff.

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 up short.

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.

Click on thumbnail image for enlarged view.

This 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. bigwoodsmorel.JPG (27497 bytes)

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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