Spring 2018 was a lousy one for morel mushroom hunters in Eastern Jackson County.
The unseasonably cold weather combined with the lack of significant precipitation, which hampered the ideal conditions for morels to grow.
This year, the significant increase of precipitation and the warmer weather coming next week should help growth of morels, according to Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center manager Lisa LaCombe and Alex Daniels, a native landscape specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
“The cold front that is coming in should halt it a little bit,” she said as temperatures had dipped to the 30s through 50s Thursday and Friday. “But the weather is working its way to being a good morel season. It should pick right back up where it left off after this cold front comes through when the low temperatures get back up to the 50s.”
Added LaCombe: “I have heard reports of people finding false morels, which usually grow around the same time morels do. There are also really small morels people have reported seeing so far. This season should be a good one for morels.”
Morels typically grow during early to mid-April. The wetter soil and the warmer the temperature is, the better the morel season becomes.
As of Thursday, Daniels, who is an avid morel hunter, has not seen any yet. Daniels said hunters could start seeing them grow next week, when the temperatures climb to the 70s.
When hunting for morels, Daniels said the ideal place to find them are south-facing slopes starting from the bottom and working up the hill. Spots next to rivers and grass that grows against wood are also good places to look, as well as nearby trees such as sycamores, oaks, hickories and poplars.
“They’ll usually be around older trees, especially ones that are dying,” Daniels said.
One thing to be cautious about when gathering morels is not picking false morels, which are poisonous. The best way to tell the difference is to cut the mushroom in half. Morels will be hollow on the inside, while the false morels have a solid interior.
“False morels have caused serious illnesses and deaths,” LaCombe said. “The cap surface of false morels have lobes, flaps, folds or wrinkles and not pits and ridges like true morels. Their caps tend to bulge outward instead of being pitted inward like true morels.”
When hunting for mushrooms, Daniels said it’s a good idea to wear bright colors, so those participating in other types of hunting know not to shoot their rifles in that direction. She also recommends using a wicker basket so spores aren’t spilling while a hunter is walking. Using a basket also helps prevent the morels from getting smashed and dirty.
Check the Missouri Department of Conservation website – mdc.mo.gov – for places to look. Morel hunters are reminded not to go onto private property without permission from the landowner. Burr Oak Woods in Blue Springs is one place patrons can go morel hunting. For more information to hunt at Burr Oak Woods, call (816) 228-3766.
“In most parks in Missouri, you can gather mushrooms for your own personal consumption, but not to sell them,” Daniels said. “It’s always good to check the park’s website. It’s OK to hunt for morels in most public parks. To sell morels, you have to get certification from the Missouri Mycological Society and have to be picked from private land.”
For more information about getting the certification, visit https://momyco.org/.