Morel mushrooms are a delicacy that appears for only a few weeks of the year. They are a requirement for balancing the ecosystem, as they feed on dead plant life. Morels are difficult to see in the landscape--they blend in very well--but they are worth the search. Begin your hunt in heavily wooded areas.
Time and Temperature
Morel mushrooms can be found in the spring when temperatures are in the 60s during the day and do not drop below the 40s at night. In Georgia, these temperature requirements occur in March, April and May.
Forests and Orchards
Morels live on dead vegetation, including dead trees and stumps. They may be near creeks and rivers. Any orchard or forest location is a great place to find morels. Recently burned areas are popular for morel growth. Focus on dead and dying trees. Excessive groundcover may be a signal of morel mushroom growth. Search deep in the groundcover. Morels found near dead elm trees are grey, white, and yellow. Dead poplars and aspens will have black morels. Near white ash trees, you will find black, grey, yellow and white morels. Apple orchards produce yellow morels. Pine trees will produce black morels.
Morels prefer well-drained soil and cannot survive in standing water. South-facing hillsides are popular morel locations. Windy hillsides will not have morels, because they will dry out. The soil will be sandy. Search out other mushroom growth, because it will signal the existence of morels in the area.
Winds and Trails
In addition to searching around dead trees, morels can be found along hiking trails and in the direction the wind blows. If you find morels in one location, search in the direction the wind is blowing. Morels are propagated by spores, so the wind will spread the spores. Responsible morel hunters will also place morels in bags that are not plastic so that the spores are released along the trail.
Macon County, Ga., has yellow morels 10 minutes from Lake Lanier. Yellow morels have also been located in Baxter County near elm trees. Fayetteville also has yellow morels. Central Georgia has white morels. Gray morels can be found in Jasper County, Ga. Augusta, Ga., has black morels. Cobb County has both blacks and grays on sandy creek banks. Most of the morels found in Georgia were located in March and April.
Do not be fooled by look-a-likes, because some of them are poisonous. Although some individuals can eat false morels, these mushrooms can cause serious illness and even death to others. Unlike morels, false morel caps are wrinkled and brainlike or shaped like a saddle. Primary differences are that false morels do not have pits and ridges and their caps bulge outward. The cap on a false morel is also attatched to the stem whereas the true morel cap hangs around the stem free, like a skirt. False morels are solid mushrooms, while morels are hollow. False morels are found in the same locations as true morels, so inexperienced morel hunters should hunt with experienced morel hunters and closely inspect their finds before eating them.
- The mushroom morel image by Ludmila Galchenkova from Fotolia.com