Morels do grow under oak trees. Oak is one of the tree types that morels prefer because of its large light coverage, which keeps the temperature cool and moist at the base.
Morels are also commonly found around areas where oaks used to grow. In fact, mushrooms prefer dead or dying trees or tree stumps, so if you find a forest edge with a cluster of dead or dying oaks, it is likely that morels will be nearby during the spring.
What Types of Oak Do Morels Prefer?
Morels are found commonly around red and bur oaks, but they thrive under all types of oak. It is really the condition and location of the oak that is more important to the morel than its species. Oaks that rest of the edges of woods that have access to some sunlight are common growing places for morels.
Morels also prefer oaks that are more mature or dying, because they get a richer nutrient exchange, and more bark falls from the tree, adding extra nutrients into the soil.
A very advanced oak may even have morels growing from its body. Look out for stumps and logs of a dead oak. Morels thrive on the remains of dead trees, taking up all the nutrients.
Are Morels Commonly Found Under Oaks?
Morels are not found most frequently under oaks. Morel hunters often say that they find more morels under elm and apple trees than they do oak trees.
That is because oaks tend to grow very large and central to woodlands or in large open meadows. These locations block out any other food source for the mushrooms or are not surrounded by other food sources. Therefore oaks that grow at the edges of woods that allow a little sunlight and undergrowth are the best oaks to find for morels.
Where Do Oak Trees Grow?
In the US, oak trees grow from Minnesota to Maine in the north and in Georgia and Texas in the south. Oak trees are very durable and can grow almost anywhere, except for very cold regions like Alaska.
In the rest of the world, oak trees are found throughout Europe and Asia. Mexico has an impressive 160 different species of oak, and China has around 100 different species.
Oak trees are in abundance around the world, however, only a small majority of this number are regular homes to morel mushrooms.
Do Morels Grow Around Oak Trees or On Oak Trees?
Both! Morels can survive either at the base of oak trees feeding off the roots or on the trunk of oak trees feeding directly from the flesh, although the latter is less common.
Morels prefer to grow in soils and are most commonly found on the ground around the base of the tree. This is because of the nature of the mycelium network, which usually lives underground.
The mycelium gathers up all the nutrients and transfers them to the mushroom fruit. If a mycelium network can get a foothold within the body of an oak tree then they will gladly flower morels.
How Do I Identify An Oak Tree?
Identifying an oak tree is quite simple if you know what to look out for. Here are a few common characteristics shared between oak species that will help you identify them:
Oak trees have a classic lobed leaf shape. The lobes differ from oak to oak, but in general, their leaves are rounded, with a point at the bottom, but consist of indents known as ‘sinuses’ the leaf of oak is almost reminiscent of the shape of a tree in itself.
The color of oak leaves varies from green to deep red to yellow, depending on the species. Also, note that the color of their leaves changes according to the season. Green leaved oaks will redden as autumn approaches, just before they drop off during the winter.
Also, oak trees are very large. They tend to dominate the landscape they are in, especially if it is a mature oak.
A fully grown oak will stand between 60 and 100 ft in height, there are some that reach 150ft! But they are rare.
You can also identify an oak tree by looking for acorns at the base. Acorns are the seeds of the tree and are distinguishable due to their bump ‘hat’ or ‘cap’. The seed itself is smooth and comes to a point at the base.
How Long Do Oaks Live?
Oaks live for a very long time, and take a long time to die, which is both good news and bad news for morel hunters!
Oaks can live a healthy life for around 150 – 250 years. They average out at around 75 years, becoming their most mature and full of life.
This is bad news for morels hunters. For every new oak planted you would have to wait around 150 years before morels begin to appear there! But the good news is that older oaks, which morels prefer, can take hundreds of years to die and morels will grow throughout the death process. That’s a lot of morels!
Why Do Morels like Oak Trees?
Morels like oak trees for several reasons. Firstly, because of their death process, secondly because of their roots, and thirdly because of the environmental conditions that they support.
Oak trees take hundreds of years to die, some can take up to 1000 years. Morels flourish around dying trees because of the nutrients they release into the soil via their roots.
Slow dying trees, like oaks, release a reliable and steady flow of food into the soil making it a great place for morels to thrive. They also have large roots, with plenty of food for morels and other biodiversity.
Oak trees are also very large. Morels are not found around oak trees that are central to the forest because their large branches suffocate any undergrowth by blocking out the light.
However, oak trees on the edges of forests still let in enough light for vegetation to thrive but provide enough shade for morels to maintain their moisture.