How to Find Morel Mushrooms in Ohio State Parks

How to Find Morel Mushrooms in Ohio State ParksMorel mushrooms are some of the most prized and delectable of the world's edible fungi. In Ohio, their emergence in woodland duff defines the spring season and prompts wild-harvest gourmands to comb the undergrowth.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Pocketknife
  • Container (basket, bucket, box)
  • Stick
  • Sturdy footwear
 
Step 1
Contact the state park nearest you to find out about its specific morel-hunting regulations, either by calling ahead or visiting the park office or website (see Resources section below). Some parks readily advertise the activity, as at Lake White State Park in the Appalachian foothills near Waverley.
Step 2
Hook up with an expert---good advice for mushroom hunting in general. Take a mushroom class from a community college, or find out about guided trips from organizations like the Ohio Mushroom Society (see Resources section below). You never want to play around when eating wild mushrooms, as there are dangerous species.
Step 3
Hunt in the spring, from roughly late March to the middle of May. Ohio's several morel species fruit at different times, and from year to year there will be temporal variation due to weather.
Step 4
Note the weather. When night temperatures have remained warm for a week or longer (say above 50 degrees), and especially if it has rained, hit the woods; these atmospheric prompts often result in morel emergence.
Step 5
Pay attention to local phenology, the pattern of animal and plant phenomena that mark the passage of time. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources suggests such clues as blooming apple trees and "May apples opening to the umbrella stage". A common saying is that morels may be about when oak leaves grow to the size of squirrel ears---and there are plenty of such practical adages.
Step 6
Look under hardwoods. Yellow morels often sprout beneath dying and dead American elm trees (no shortage of those in eastern North America). Morels may also be associated with disturbed areas and old orchards, as well as poorly-drained sites like bottomlands and swales.
Step 7
Where you find one morel, hunt thoroughly in the near vicinity. The dispersal of mushroom spores often results in a trail of fruiting bodies.
 

Tips & Warnings

 
Take along a stick on your hunt. You can use this to gently push away groundcover, which, when dense, often conceals morel jewels beneath. A pocketknife can be handy for cutting the morels at ground level.
 
Place the mushrooms in a good container, like a basket or bucket, to transport them without getting them damaged.
 
Heed any regulations or restrictions on harvesting; morel-gathering should be a sustainable activity.
 
Always be absolutely certain of the identification of a wild mushroom you harvest. Once again, searching with mycologists or experienced amateurs is a great way to go. False morels, which somewhat resemble true morels, are poisonous raw and may also be disagreeable to some people when cooked.
 
Ohio's wild turkey hunting season overlaps with morel emergence. Check with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for specifics, and wear orange if you're sharing the field with turkey hunters.

Article Written By Ethan Schowalter-Hay

Ethan Schowalter-Hay is a writer and naturalist living in Oregon. He has written for the "Observer," the Bureau of Land Management and various online publishers. He holds a Bachelor of Science in wildlife ecology and a graduate certificate in geographic information systems from the University of Wisconsin.

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