The Life Of A Great Morel….
The Great Morel™ has been fortunate over the last 20 years of being able to help morel enthusiasts better understand this spring time fungi. Part of that understanding is to understand the morel life cycle and existence in the world. With contributions from those who have taken the time to study and analyze the morel growth cycle, we all can take a peek into the life of the great morel.
Morel enthusiast often ask and wonder…”I wonder how they grow”?
Let’s just start this conversation by saying – yes a morel grows and it doesn’t just pop up. How it grows and what makes the morel the happiest is a balanced diet of proper weather conditions. As many of you know there is one and only one major factor that truly matters to the birth and existence of the morel – that is weather. The weather has so much to do with contributing to the life cycle of the morel. From its birth to its dying drying days – the weather plays the most important role in the fruitful life of the morel. For many, the 2018 season was a testament to this fact as the morel’s arrival was in a constant battle with Mother Nature for many regions in the US.
And a battle it can be…
There is a great study on the web page that shows how the morel can quickly lose this battle. In 2007 Scott Keller from Illinois went to work and chronicled his patch of morels and their clash against the elements. As Scott points out the will of the morel’s arrival to the world was quickly lost. Scott goes on to say:
“…unfortunately mother nature felt it necessary to unleash a crazy cold snap and high winds. I took a photo of the same cluster at almost exactly the same angle plus a top view even though they were dying, also I had to clear a leafy view that was obstructing the shot. I thought you may find this interesting of what a sudden cold snap did to this and many other clusters out here. Our temperatures were: 4/5/07 (high 42, low 26), 4/6/07 (high 32, low 25) and today 4/7/07 (high 46, low 26). Please note that on 4/3/07 our temperatures were at a high 70 and had dropped 32 degrees the next day.”
Thankfully, not every year’s weather creates havoc on our beloved morels. When it cooperates, the morel thrives and beckons us to find it . With the combination of perfect ground temperatures, the perfect amount of precipitation, warm days and cool evenings these conditions make for a happy morel allowing it to reach its mature state.
So how long will they survive?
In those so-called “perfect” conditions and depending on the variety, the great morel can expect to live healthy for several days up to two weeks. Once again, we are going to come back to the weather. As soon as the morel makes its grand entrance into the world, it has to battle elements such as wind, heat, and rain. Add the lack of rain and couple that with the wind and heat and the morel can dry out rather quickly. The yellow morels which typically are late arrivals in the season are especially susceptible to these conditions and will dry more quickly than the smaller grey morels. One, because they stand taller above the ground cover and two they are often not as meaty as the smaller grey morels. There is a good page showing the effects of a morel’s aging process and if you’d like to read more then click here.
Tom Volk – a renowned mycologist offers a more scientific explanation, and you can visit Tom Volk’s website in which he shows a wonderful graphic of the morel life cycle from a scientific perspective. In the morel’s dying days it will begin to display unhealthy characteristics. Decay, drying, and rotting of the stem are common signs the morel is on its way down. Often times they’ll start to get a moldy appearance as shown in the image below. Many morel hunters have stumbled upon a patch and you know you were a day or two late because they’ve already fallen and laid themselves to rest. You can also find more information on The Great Morel’s Growth and Life Cycle page which gets into a little more detail.
Many serious morel hunters will talk about ground temperature and moisture content. Arguably, opinions will vary on what the ideal soil conditions should be. “need more rain”, “getting too much rain”, “heavy winter snow make the morels grow” – these are often heard phrases form the seasoned morel hunter. Some have set out to find the truth to these theories. There are several really good growth cycle studies that have been sent to The Great Morel over the years, all of which will enlighten you and help us all to understand a little more.
Clint Ely, a renowned morel hunter in West Virginia did an interesting study on the “birth place of the morel”. In 2009, Clint’s study was on the soiland pH content, and while Clint never finished his experiment, it is interesting none-the-less, and brings the soil condition into the equation.
Another interesting study from back in 2008 was done by David Guillemette. David’s study was primarily on air temperatures and rain volume and he was kind enough to show some time-lapse photos which enlightens us to the challenges of a young morel.
we are often just spectators in this battle of Mother Nature and the great morel
For the seasoned shroomers – each will have their thoughts and theories on what the perfect conditions are to help the morel flourish to its fruitful state. For some it is about precipitation levels, others it may be air temperatures, and others it may be about soil temps. One thing most all will agree on – Mother Nature holds the key to making morels happy and we are just in this world hoping to understand.
While we try to figure it out – we are often just spectators in this battle of Mother Nature and the great morel.
Frequently Asked Questions