Jump to content

First Morel of 2022


Recommended Posts

Found on 04/14 in open hardwood forest, tulip poplar near where a south-facing ridge bottoms out. Only two small of these Morchella angusticeps found (aka. Black Morel). I expect to find a few more of these during the coming 3-4 weeks, and some other types of morels in this same spot. But, not as many as I used to find there before most of the white ash trees were wiped out by the "ash borer." In our hardwood forests mature tulip poplar and ash seem to be the most productive. But, my biggest annual morel hauls are made in a small 3-4 acre grove of elms. 

Morchella angusticeps LC 4-14 A2.JPG

Morchella angusticeps LC 4-14 A4.JPG

Hepatica LC 4-14.JPG

Morel habitat LC 4-14.JPG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Dave W said:

The snow and cold will likely erase one week of potential fruiting of M. angusticeps. After the warmth predicted for this weekend, things should get going again. 

I hope you’re right! I’ve been counting the days for a long time now. Had good luck with enoki in mid January but that was the last time I’ve been out. Will probably go check my Tulip poplar stands today and at least get a soil temp. Unfortunately none are south facing 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We found around 20 here, total. We might check to see if any late blacks come up after the cold snap we had. There may be a few more considering how mature the rest were. Most were in one small area that is usually fairly reliable. 

32B8186B-ADF1-414B-AF85-389A69BACB90.jpeg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not like it was a few years ago, but at least you have enough to compliment a meal. It's supposed to be warm Sunday/Monday. I'll wait until Wednesday to check my local spot again.

I have an idea about why there are so fewer Morchella angusticeps in our hardwood forests. Back when I annually collected 100-300 of these in the same 1/2 mile stretch of tulip poplar/white ash woods (1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009) the ash trees were slowly dying form the emerald ash borer infestation. 2010-2013 numbers of M. angusticeps in this area dropped off to somewhat below 100 annually. After 2013 --when virtually all of the ash trees had died-- the numbers dropped significantly. The best morel patches during 1999-2013 were in areas featuring ash (in some cases mixed with tulip poplar).

Morels fruit from subterranean structures called sclerotia (plural of sclerotium). This has been recently confirmed by Chinese researchers who worked to develop commercially viable cultivated morels from strains of Morchella importuna (a species of "Black Morel" that tends to grow on spread wood chips). The sclerotia are activated to produce mushrooms by (not completely well-understood) environmental conditions. Given that some species of Morchella produce large fruitings when certain nearby trees die, begin to die, or are damaged (most notably M. americana by elm/apple trees and species of "Fire Morels" under pine), it seems reasonable to suggest the M. angusticeps I used to find in greater quantity were the result of Morchella sclerotia set into reproductive motion by the demise of the (presumably associated) ash trees. But, this seems to not explain why the morel patches in areas where the trees are predominantly tulip poplar have also been in apparent decline. Very recent research seems to offer a potential explanation. Apparently, wild fungi are capable of communicating with one another. It has even been suggested (not without controversy) that fungi use a "language" consisting of 50 or more "words"    http://paulstamets.com/news/mushrooms-communicate-with-each-other-using-up-to-50-words-scientist-claims?fbclid=IwAR13VCnrh7iKcRWMiEeo3L1IkuCv8VW-qF-2ZeApc8pDWq9MXQahxBSvDM0   . So, even if a particular Morchella mycelium is associated with some ash trees, if that organism is stimulated to set its sclerotia into reproductive mode then perhaps this "motivation" is communicated to other nearby mycelium that may be associated with other trees. In theory (not difficult to believe) it takes years for Morchella sclerotia to develop/mature, and once the stored energy is spent the organism goes into recovery mode. This is an explanation offered by Volk et al for the cyclic nature of "Fire Morel" fruiting.  I'm still seeing a few M. angusticeps in my local spot, all nearby tulip poplar. Perhaps this is the mechanism that functions as regeneration of new sclerotia (which presumably means there's still a few remaining older sclerotia present) by introducing spores --and then new mycelium-- into the habitat. 

Does this suggest that it makes sense to allow M. angusticeps morels to remain in-situ when found in such recovery areas; at least until the mushrooms are mature and dropping spores? Maybe. But, this is easier said than done, especially in areas where morel hunting is popular. Somebody is likely gonna harvest those critters! And, given that small numbers of M. angusticeps continue to fruit under the healthy tulip poplar it's likely there are still mature sclerotia present in those spots. I think these spots may contain the oldest most resilient mycelium. Over that past 8 years it hasn't always been the same group of poplar where my morels were found. There's actually 4 different little patches of trees, and the pair of morels I've found so far this year were in a spot that has not produced for the previous 10 years. 

It seems to me that things are similar but not exactly the same with the M. americana that is found under dying apple trees or recently dead elms. Once these trees have all been dead for a couple years there's zero morels in those spots. At least here in my area (NE PA), the apple/elm Morchella appears to not associate with nearby trees other than apple or elm. It seems the fungus has worked for years to grow sclerotia. When the tree enters into a period of slow decline --which is what the apple trees do-- there are morels under such a tree for as long as the tree remains alive, and harvesting does not appear to have a negative effect upon the following year (until the apple tree dies, and then there may be one last large flush). If another nearby apple tree then enters into a state of decline, there will be morels there.  So, it appears the Morchella associated with apple do not suddenly use up all the energy stored in the sclerotia all at once, at least not until the tree dies. And, the M. americana organism associated with one dying/dead apple tree does not "communicate" with other nearby apple trees in a way that stimulates additional reproduction. But, another thing I have noticed is that after one apple tree has completely died, another that's close will then enter into a state of decline. Perhaps there's a different message being communicated here? Perhaps one Morchella mycelium (the one growing on the roots of a tree that just died) stimulates another nearby mycelium to enter into a parasitic stage? That is, the latter of the two organisms mentioned begins to parasitize the living tree, and this causes the tree to begin to die? My observations in several different local old apple orchards support this idea. But, it's only an idea. In the case of elms the story seems to be similar, albeit simpler. Am elm grows until it's maybe 20-40 feet tall, and then whammo! Suddenly it dies from Dutch elm disease. If there's Morchella associated with the tree, then there's a significant flush or mostly large morels the following spring. After that... maybe one or two mushrooms the following spring and then none after that... unless there's another elm nearby that dies. The Morchella fungus appears to not have spread to other types of trees. 

Evan, in the case of your morel spot I think maybe the explanation seen in the third paragraph above applies. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I thought about those abundant years and the ash tree decline, and wondered if they had actually begun to die way back then. All of the ash trees are now dead and other than the one area, these morels were growing singly. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The one thing that has always seemed like a missing piece in the "dying ash" explanation is that areas where most of the trees are tulip polar have also been producing way fewer morels these past 8-10 years. The "communication" idea appears to offer a potential explanation. When some of the organisms in a forest respond to a threat, all the other ones join in and respond accordingly. Sounds kinda far fetched. But, if one accepts the " fungal communication hypothesis" then a question immediately follows. What purpose(s) is/are served? The evolution of communication should presumably provide some sort of advantage for the survival of the organisms. In the case of Morchella angusticeps, perhaps the advantage is putting into motion a concerted effort at proliferation when a population suffers a setback. 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since I retired 5 years ago I've been able to spend a lot of time hunting morels. I still find a few medium size ash trees and damaged but surviving smaller trees but none with morels. Some places have small ash trees sprouting. One place has treated the ash and 3 to 4 dozen are in pretty good shape but I haven't found any morels under them. Last year I found 15 blacks under elms, both live and dead present. That spot produce 5 blacks the year before and only 2 this year. The apple trees produced about 150 americanas and 1 diminutiva last year. Isolated pignut and shagbark hickories produced 77 diminutivas. Isolated poplars produced 9 yellows. Then there's about 200 morels in mixed trees that I didn't accurately note the association. The apple trees nearly exclusively produced americana. The hickories exclusively producing diminutiva. The poplars producing americana, diminutiva & half frees and the elms producing all 4 of our local common morels. It hasn't been as good so far this year, 2 blacks and 21 americana. Too cold at first then just right for while then too cold and then way too hot over this last weekend. The photo showing 2 morels were nearly dried out.

20220424_140937.jpg

20220424_134358.jpg

20220423_125541.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice info, bobby. Yeah, the nights have been too chilly. Just when  it warmed up enough for a couple blacks to pop in my tulip poplar spot, the nights turned cold again. This is certainly a factor in the fewer than normal early-season morels here in NE PA the past several years. Temps drop into the 20s and 30 at night right after the soil temps get to the critical level. 

In the past did you get blacks under ash? When they were dying in my spot here I was finding quite a few near ash (2000-2011). But, also there were a few springs during that time span when the warm weather started early and hung on through for the first 3 weeks of April. I think it's safe to say we don't have forested areas here in NE PA that are as good for morels as your spot. I'm guessing the soil here has a lower Ph. Starting in central PA as you head west or south there seems to be more morels. Midwest is known for morels. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

By the time I started mushroom hunting the ash were mostly dead and I have yet to see a morel on an ash. Yesterday I checked the ash trees which have been treated at Allegheny Counties North Park with no morels found. Even the treated trees sometimes show the damage from the beetles.

20220429_141235.jpg

20220429_141239.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, bobby. This is an interesting topic.

Retirement! Yes! My first spring without having a job interfering with my pursuit of morels, which I expect will pick up next week after we get some rain and warmth. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Guidelines | We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.