"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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When Will Morels Be Up?
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Scifres

It is that time of year again. Morel mushrooms in their various forms are on the threshold again--a time outdoor folks anticipate for months--and as per usual, the questions roll.
First off, I am besieged by questions every year about this time, the most important being: “When will morels be up? But there are other queries, and I will try to offer some of the things I have learned in three-quarters of a century of mushroom hunting in Indiana.
Taking first things first, I must say that there is no way to say when the morels will pop. I do like to think morels will make their grand entry about the time spring beauties paint the forest floor a stunning pinkish-white, but before this plant starts to seed. If bloodroot and twinleaf (very similar flowers) are in bloom, a good part of the mushroom season has fled northward.
Still, there is the age-old theory among “morellers” that “big yallers (yellows) are up when lilac bushes bloom, blue or white, or any other color, presumably. I saw this adage fail for the first time last year, but it was very dry where I hunted. It was a good year in other parts of the state.
Another morel question I often hear at this time of year is: Where do mushrooms grow? In my humble hunts and haunts, I tend to gravitate to the feeling that more than 60 percent of the morels are under the influence of dead elm trees (bark slipping and hanging loose). However, my experiences have told me for many years that mushrooms are, like bass, rabbits and many other children of nature:  where you find them.
For many years my very authoritative, adamant reply was “certainly not” when I was asked whether morels occurred under stands of Mayapple (a wildflower).  It is widely thought they do not. Then, one day as I approached a large patch of this wildflower) there perched under the flowers was a huge yaller. To add insult to injury of the ego, my son-in-law started finding blacks and whites under Mayapples. The Mayapple, incidentally, puts forth a beautiful white bloom . . . but you have to put your tummy on the humus to view it point-blank.
Back to trees. I find mushrooms under many tree species. Once I stopped to rest near a big shagbark hickory tree, and as my eyes swept the forest floor around my respite, a bumper crop of huge yellows popped out all around me. I just sat there--my back to the tree--counting before I entered on my find.
I find morels and, a phalanx of other mushrooms, around such other tree species as sycamore (shaggy bark), American beech, tulip poplar (our start tree) blackberry patches, and other tangles of brush, the theory being that such bastions stop mushroom spore (seeds) as they ride the winds, then fall to the earth to produce mycelium.  
If a hunt is not producing morels, one can always turn his/her efforts to harvesting the Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus) to have food for the table. It occurs on the sides of dead trees, primarily dead elm, but it may show up on any tree. This polypore (pores, not gills) gets a bit tough with age and size but smaller, young specimen are fairly good (though chewy). I slice the caps about an eighth of an inch thick (if I find no morels) and sauté the strips in olive oil with no breading. The Dryad’s Saddle moniker is derived from the fact that it resembles an old time tractor seat. It reaches very large proportions. Pores may be removed or left on.

FOR BOATERS--The DNR has some complicated boat regulatory rules. If you are a would-be boater, the rules should be checked to avoid being cited. Fish and wildlife areas and some other waters have special regulations. Check! Stay legal!

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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