Morels are delicious and elusive mushrooms found in Michigan woods in the spring. Black morels show up first, followed by the “half frees” (small and fragile morels), and then the gray morels followed by yellows or whites, and, lastly, the giants. They first appear on the south side of forested hills near the top, which
warms up earliest. As the season goes on, they can be found lower on hillsides
and in flat areas.
Look for morels near dying trees, such as elm, ash, apple, and any softwoods. Try
to find dying trees that haven't yet shed their bark and start by looking on the south side of these trees, where the soil will be warmest. Once you find morels on the south side of a tree, be sure to come back later and look again. Morels will continue to grow around the entire tree as the soil there warms up. Late in the season, giant morels sometimes grow under logs where the soil remains moist and cool.
Morels also grow in burn areas, older clear-cut areas, hardwood forests, birch clusters, and some wetlands. Always work slowly up the hills and look ahead into the leaves. Search moss patches and especially on and around mounds without scraping away the leaves. When working aspen stands, look closely at the bases of the trees and around stumps, logs, and clumps of grass.
When you find morels, be sure to record the location in a logbook for the next time. Morels tend to grow in the same spots every year. To ensure that they will return next year, pick them as close to the bottom of the stem as possible and leave the base.
Beware of false morels! They are poisonous. You can distinguish false morels from real ones by a reddish-brown cap that usually hangs to one side and is not attached to the stem. This cap has a brain-like texture rather than the honeycomb texture on real morels. Real morels are also completely hollow inside. If you aren’t completely sure, seek the opinion of an experienced morel hunter do not eat any mushroom based on this quick blog post. For a more in-depth identification guide, check out this blog: https://www.mushroom-appreciation.com/morel-mushroom.html
We bought out property in Northern Michigan three years ago. The previous owner had routinely raked all pine needles away from the ground and left everything barren under the trees. We're working hard to restore the forested area. I am fascinated with morels and painted this lovely just this spring wishing we had morels on our property. Then. last week, for the first time.....(drumroll), we found a morel! Two in fact!
I kicked one over in the flower bed having missed it completely but I noticed the general shape and the tell-tale hollow center once it was on top of the pine needles. And just yesterday, a new one popped up next to it! I'm not touching the new one, hoping to let it mature and spread some more spores.