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FUNGI Volume 2:1 Spring 2009

A Season of Morels
Matching Trees and Location to Find Morels
by John Plischke III
Apple Trees
Old abandoned apple orchards are always a favorite place to
look. Healthy trees are so seldom productive I dont even bother
to look under them.
WHERE: The ideal location is an orchard in overgrown farmland
that has gone fallow and reverted back into woods. The apple
trees there will be in decline and one of the smaller types of trees
in the woods. This type of habitat can produce very large sized
morels. If you hit it right, collecting baskets can be quickly filled!
WHEN: Old orchard morels fruit when the apple trees are in
blossom. To find these areas, drive down country roads and look
for the apple trees in bloom, which make the trees very easy to
WHAT: Yellow Morels, Giant Yellow Morels, Half-Free Morels.
Tulip Poplar Trees
Tulip poplar trees (aka tulip tree; Liriodendron tulipifera) are
one of the most commonly hunted trees in the Northeast. It is
not because hundreds of morels can be found under a single tree,
but rather that they are easy to locate, fairly consistently
productive, and that a few morels can be picked here and there.
WHERE : Tulip poplars have very long straight trunks that do
not fork until way up in the tree and remind me of telephone
poles because of their size. Their leaves remind me of mittens.
WHAT: Black Morels start fruiting under them as soon as the
leaves get about 1/4 inch, then Half Free Morels start a couple of
weeks later followed by Tulip Morels then Yellow Morels start a
week or so later. Once the leaves get as big as in the photo here
the season is long over.
Yellow Morels (Morchella esculenta) found under apple trees.
Tulip Poplar Morel (Morchella deliciosa) growing in a small clump
under tulip trees.
FUNGI Volume 2:1 Spring 2009 46
Burned Areas
In the West one of the hottest spots to look for morels is in
conifer forests after a fire. Eastern burns are not too productive,
so do not bother to search burned forests in the East.
HOT TIP: These areas can be so good that they attract commercial
pickers from all over the country. (See related article on fire
morels, in this issue of FUNGI).
WHAT: The recently described Black Fuzzy Footed Burn Morel
(Morchella tomentosa). There are a number of other species of
morels that also grow in burns but this one is very distinct.
In Mulch and Landscaped Areas
This morel is a western species and can be found in California,
Oregon, and Mexico. It is predominately found in wood chips.
Nothing beats the ease of driving to the local McDonalds and
picking morels in their landscaping! Another good location to
check is olive tree orchards that had branches pruned and chopped
into woodchips.
Ash Trees
In many parts of the country ash trees (particularly white ash,
Fraxinus americana) are a very popular tree to look under.
WHY: Ash trees are starting to die from the emerald ash borer,
an invasive beetle.
WHAT: Most commonly Yellow Morels are found under ash
and occasionally Black Morels.
TIP: Although not one of my personal favorite group of trees, I
occasionally find morels under aspen and cottonwood, which
may occur in the same regions as ash; aspen and cottonwood
merit a look if you spot them.
The Black Morel (Morchella elata / angusticeps group). WHAT: The Mulch, Olive or Landscape Morel (Morchella rufo-
FUNGI Volume 2:1 Spring 2009
Elm Trees
Dead and dying elm trees are the very best type of trees for
morels. This habitat has made the Midwest legendary for morel
pickers. Giant elms (American elm, Ulmus americana) produce
more and bigger morels per tree than any other tree species.
The tree on the left had over 200 Giant Morels under it, growing
612 inches apart and extending about 35 feet in all directions.
Can you imagine finding my secret spot that has acres and acres of
elm trees, seemingly without end? The photo on the right shows
a small one and the distinctive way the trunk branches out at the
base. Elm trees have serrated leaves that feel a little rough.
WHEN: Morels emerge beneath elm trees once the leaves are
about 1/4 inch long.
WHERE: Look under recently dead elm trees featuring bark
that is just starting to peel off; you may notice some lying on the
ground underneath (see the photo above). Healthy elms are not
productive. The bigger the elm, the more and bigger the morels
WHAT: Yellow Morels, Giant Morels, Half Free Morels, and
Black Morels.
Wild Cherry Trees
Wild cherry trees can
occasionally produce morels.
I typically do not seek them
out but when walking across
patches of them I sometimes
find morels. Britt Bunyard
often recommends checking
stands of wild cherry in waste
areas such as along railroad
WHAT Half-Free Morels and Black Morels.
Conifer Trees
Many different types of stands of conifer trees will support
morels. In the West, conifers forests can be very productive, but
in the East they typically are not.
WHERE: In the East where morels often blend in with their
background, they are very difficult to spot. Occasionally, I come
across coniferous habitat that has some of my other favorite types
of morel trees scattered among them. In this situation with fallen
needles covering the ground (and with little or no leaves or
understory plants)
it is a lot easier to
spot morels.
Half Free Morels (Morchella semilibera)
Yellow or Giant Morels