Morels are most likely on every mushroomers’ short list of favorite edible fungi. But delicious as they are, morels are much more than just a good meal. Morels are esoteric and mysterious, seemingly not bound by the rules of ‘ordinary’ mushrooms. Where and how to find them have become part of the folklore in much of North America, especially in the mid-west where moreling has been elevated almost to the status of religion. For many the hunt is the goal, so compelling that there are morelers that don’t even eat their catch!
In my travels around the web, I had come across several sites about morels (Morchella), but when I really started searching for morel information, there was a lot less than I expected. But there is plenty for me to start you on your world-wide-web morel hunt.
At Michael Kuo’s MushroomExpert.com you will find the best morel information available on the web. This should come as no surprise, as Kuo wrote the book Morels (University of Michigan Press, 2005).
Start with the page “The Morchellaceae: True Morels and Verpas”. Here you will learn that DNA studies currently indicates that there are 16 morel species in North America. Only four of these species, and four species groups, can be differentiated based on morphology and ecology. There is a key on this page to those species, species groups, and the two North American species of Verpa. There is another key, with more information, on the page “Identifying Morels with Morphology”.
Two pages describe the Morel Data Collection Project and the current state of knowledge of North American morels from this project. The meat is at “MDCP Morel Taxa” where you will find descriptions and distribution information on the two North American ‘half-free’ morels, the two named species (Morchella rufobrunnea and Morchella tomentosa), and the 12 without scientific names (The ‘Western Blond’, ‘Classic North American Yellow Morel’, ‘Classic North American Black Morel’, ‘North American Deliciosa’, plus the eight currently just called something like ‘Taxon 13’). There are links to more information and photographs of the collections in the MDCP of each of these taxa.
The Morel Data Collection Project is on-going and there are lots of geographic gaps to the current collections (for example, there are no collections of the very abundant burn morel from the Sierra Nevada mountains of California). I suspect that with more work, collections from other areas, and genetic comparison with European material, two things will become apparent. (1)There are more species of morels in North America than the 16 currently known and (2)All European names (M. conica, M. deliciosa, M. elata, M. esculenta etc.) are all invalid and we need new names for our North American species.
Nathan Wilson’s Mushroom Observer comes through again. There are hundreds of photographs of morels of many different species to be found here. Start by typing in ‘Morchella’ in the ‘Find:’ box and choosing ‘Observations’, ‘Images’, or ‘Names’…and enjoy!
Tom Volk’s Fungi
If you are an active North American mushroomer, you have probably met Dr. Tom Volk. He has undoubtedly spoken to more clubs and at more forays than any other mycologist! Tom and his students have done considerable research on morels, including finding evidence that morels, at least some of the time, are mycorrhizal! Alas I cannot find anything about this on Tom’s website, but there is other morel information. One of Tom’s early ‘Mushroom of the Month’ pages was on the morel, but even more interesting is his page on the morel life cycle.
Northern Country Morels
Although concentrating on the Michigan morel season, Northern Country Morels has much to offer morelers in other parts of the country. There is a section on ‘Identifying Morels’, a section on ‘Morel Habitats’, and one on ‘Identifying Trees in Spring’, which is specific to the trees of the mid-west. But maybe the most interesting part of this website is the ‘Message Board’. There are thousands of morel and other mushroom related posts in the mushroom related forums, plus hunting & fishing forums. To access the ‘Morel Progression Maps’, ‘Mushroom Check Point’, and ‘Photo Posting Area’ forums, you must register and make a minimum of 10 posts in the other forums. This requirement is designed to induce content in these forums.
These pages are by Tom and Vicky Nauman, avid morelers from Illinois. Although primarily a business site, there is some nice morel information here. On the sightings page, photos and comments about the morel season are posted. The archives page has older short articles about morels and other mushrooms. The Morel Mania catalog has lots of really neat morel products—walking sticks, jewelry, carved morels and so forth. One product you can buy is the beautiful Shroom Stik™, a handmade walking stick with a morel at the top.
A few other sites, listed here without comment: