If you haven’t read the Frequently Asked Question page then make sure when you are done here you check out that page to increase your morel knowledge.
Usually you can tell when they start to look unhealthy or they are announcing “pick me” by examining the cap (or head) of the morel as well as the base of the stem. You will typically find the morel begin to darken along the stems as well as the cap as it ages. The amount of discoloration is a good indication as to if the morel is on the down side or not.
Slight decay and discoloration is by no means reason to feel failure in your timing as a shoomer. It may or may not make the morel a “bad” morel, because often times you can trim the bad spots off of them when cleaning and preparing. Again, depends on how far along this decaying process is.
It is not all uncommon for the tips of the caps to be missing either. It is usually the weakest part of the morel as it stands in the sun and begs for rain, or your morel may be crying because it was bitten by a cold night frost. So do not be alarmed if it has sprung a leak in the top of the cap. If the rest of the morel looks fresh and healthy, then pick it and trim the bad stuff off later. Many morel hunters will use a 50 percent factor….if 50 percent is good then it’s worth bagging. Take a closer look by clicking on the image to the right or click here and you’ll get a better idea of what to look for.
The morel’s characteristics begin to take on subtle changes as it starts to age. With cooperative weather conditions the morel can survive for up to two (2) weeks before the natural decay process is likely to set in and begin to take place. Again, the weather has so much do with the life cycle and most morel hunters will agree it is by far the most important factor. If there is not enough ground moisture, the morel will start to dry out. If you are looking for a more scientific explanation, visit Tom Volk’s website in which he shows a wonderful graphic of the morel life cycle from a scientific perspective.
The Great Morel has been lucky to have a few shroomers contribute their growth cycle studies along with data and images. The Great Morel is honored to share three separate studies of the morel growth cycle. Each study includes time-lapse photo and other substantial data for detail as to weather and ground conditions. It is interesting watching the morel growth cycle and the studies certainly answer some of the questions many morel hunters have wondered. The photo galleries add an interesting perspective and give us a chance to see the morel’s life in motion. Again, a special thanks to all who have contributed and The Great Morel will add additional studies when they become available.
A Study of the Morel Growth Cycle
The Great Morel is pleased to present this 2008 study of the growth of the Maine morel. David Guillemette, who is a well renowned morel hunter located in Maine has so kindly agreed to share his personal study of the growth cycle with visitors of The Great Morel. What follows are documentation and images in which Dave is and has compiled. The scope of Dave’s study was to take daily photographs, document daytime and nighttime temperatures of several known morel patches. The Great Morel has asked that recording of ground temperatures also be collected.
Dave’s photos and the log of events that follow are being compiled based on data he is collecting from morel patches located near Manchester Maine. Dave also wants everyone to understand and realize, “…after this full experiment in the life of a Maine Morel I plan on experimenting on these specimens with 350 degrees of heat and a table spoon of ‘Land O Lake’ “.
David Guillemette’s documentation log:
Site: base of a very old (75 years), and very still alive Apple Tree. This site has been producing a consistent lot of Morchella Esculenta for well over 22 years. Like most of my Patches Apple trees seem to be the choice spots for Morels. Age of trees are not a factor here. My Best patch is in a very young grove (20 year old trees) of Macintosh. All Morels are within the root system limits, and as close to the base of the trees.
The fungi have followed 2 days of heavy Rain high temps in the 40’s, followed by 3 days at 70+ degrees, Nights in the mid 50’s.
Dave’s Maine Morel Patch Study
|Day Temp (F)
|Night Temp (F)
|Ground Temp (F) *
|May 3, 2008
|May 4, 2008
|May 5, 2008
|May 6, 2008
|May 7, 2008
|May 8, 2008
|Day 1 (see image)
|May 9, 2008
|Day 2 (see image)
|May 10, 2008
|* looking for thermometer which reads under 90 degrees
Journal of Dave’s E-mail Notes
* May 8th – Here are 4 Morel test studies. Location: Manchester Maine. Site: base of a very old (75 years), and very still alive apple tree. This site has been producing a consistent lot of Morchella Esculenta for well over 22 years. Like most of my patches, apple trees seem to be the choice spots for morels. Age of trees are not a factor here. My Best patch is in a very young grove (20 year old trees) of Macintosh. All morels are within the root system limits, and as close to the base of the trees. The Fungi have followed 2 days of heavy rain high temps in the 40’s, followed by 3 days at 70+ degrees, nights in the mid 50’s. …after this full experiment in the life of a Maine Morel I plan on experimenting on these specimens with 350 degrees of heat and a table spoon of “Land O Lake”.
* May 9th – I tried last night to get ground temps, and it wasn’t 15 minutes later did I realize it only had 98 degrees + on it. Also as much as I hate to do it but I plan on taking one of these morels all the way to the very end of it’s wonderful delicious life. This will help me and hopefully others to get a better idea on how long it really takes a morel to mature. I’m thinking I really have two more weeks before the season begins here in Maine. (Average May 21 – 23).
* May 9th – not much change. Still looking for a thermometer that registers under 90 degrees.
The Life of a Morel
These three images show a nice little time-line of the morel over a six (6) day period.
“My husband has been in the woods every day since the mushrooms started.
He has been marking and taking pictures every couple days. These photos show
the growth over a period of 6 days.” – Courtesy of Diana Wolfe in north central Indiana
A Day by Day Study
Another day-by-day photo gallery of Patch # 2 courtesy of David Guillemette
A 2009 Study of the Birth Place of the Morel
The Great Morel is pleased to present this 2009 study of the growth of the West Virginia morel. Clint Ely, who is a well renowned morel hunter located in West Virginia has so kindly agreed to share his personal study of the growth cycle with visitors of The Great Morel. Clint’s data is somewhat different then the 2008 study by David Guillemette. Clint has decided to initially log data specific to the soil. The scope of Clint’s study is to attempt to document PH content and soil temperature of various morel patches.
Clint was graciously kind to provide his data and will soon be supplying photos. Understandably, Clint has left out the GPS coordinates as not to disclose the prime location of his morels.
Note from The Great Morel: Clint never finished this study and did not send the images. So Clint, if you are out there get back with The Great Morel (updated 2023)
|The Great Morel Hunt of 2009 by Clinton Ely
|Somewhere in West Virginia
|1″, cap above ground, stalk not visible
|Large cap, stalk not grown yet
|Is number 1 morel, grown 1/4″
|Number 2 morel, not growing yet
|Somewhere Else in West Virginia
|Near Tulip Popular Trees, S facing, 2″
|All 1-3 found in same area, rocky soil
|3″, near dead cherry branch
|2″ baby, small cap, found 2′ from blacks
|2″, found near blacks, area with 3 others
|2″, found with 6
|3″, found in leaf litter
Journal of Clint’s E-mail Notes
* On Thu, 4/16/09, Clint wrote: Good afternoon! I went out shroom hunting today in another area and only found 2 barely sprouting yellow morels… no stalk yet just half of the head poking out of the ground. I collected the PH of the soil and some other information. I will buy a thermometer tomorrow and will be hunting this weekend. Some good info I have found is to load the GPS coordinates in Google Earth and check out the area with the sliding time/sun option! It is neat as hell, so far I have found that the areas getting the most sun is the spot currently to look at. I will report back to you this weekend with the information. Tools I am using: Garmin GPS navigator Walmart PH/Fertilizer tester Digital Thermometer Digital Camera As soon as I get more data, I will attempt to make an easy table for the info. Until then, take care! –Clint
* On Thu, 4/21/09, Clint wrote: Hello Great Morel, I am attaching a rougly made Excel sheet. I will include more information, I just wanted you to know that I am working on this for you. A bit of a slow period for a week then you and I will both be eating shrooms! I’ll give you the GPS coordinates for your own study that way I won’t have 1000 lazy people taking over my spot. An interesting note… the black morels grow at the 55F while the blondes seem to prefer the warmer 56F at least. I hope I can find out more when this is all said and done. I’ll upload some pics when I can. –Clint
Click here to see a 2008 study by David Guillemette -a study which has more detail
The Importance of Mother Nature
This 2007 study below was contributed by Scott Keller from western Illinois. This study contains what was to be a series of photos showing the life cycle of a morel patch. Unfortunately Mother Nature threw a blanket of cold upon the Midwest in the spring of 2007. So what was to be a study of life, turned out to be a study of the death of a morel patch. The Great Morel had asked Scott if he would photograph his patch and chronologically keep data. As you will see it turned into a study of a different kind.
Here is Scott’s storyline:
Here is our first little cluster that my friend and I stumbled upon, the largest morel was the size of a quarter, I didn’t think to put one down for the picture, but if you zoom in at the babies you can see one is so new and small it does not even have a cap on it yet! I took this photo today (4/5/2007) near the Mississippi river in Missouri.
…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.
Although…on the other side of the tree we find growth that has survived healthy from 2 days ago with new growth which must have come up during yesterdays high of 32 (4/7/07). – see the last photo in the gallery.