Morels do not grow well in acidic soil – for morels to thrive, they need to have a high Ph in the environment they’re growing in (somewhere in the region of 7.2 to 8.5). Additionally, they will ideally want to grow in soil that is loamy and drains well. What does this all mean?
In this article, we’re going to go through some of the key points around where morel mushrooms do and don’t like to grow. Let’s get started!
First things first; what’s a “morel”?
Morels (belonging to the family Morchellaceae) are a kind of edible mushroom, easily identifiable by their “cap” which looks similar to a brain and is often conical. Varieties of morel include the Yellow morel (Morchella Esculenta), Pancita (Morchella conica), and the Half-free morel (Morchella semilibera). They are edible, and much prized by hunters in cooking.
Typical uses include creamy or buttery pasta sauces, stewed, with steak – or even cooked and spread on toast with olive oil and salt.
As with any kind of wild mushroom, extreme caution should be taken when identifying mushrooms that you intend to eat, and should you have any doubts steer well clear – misidentified mushrooms can cause serious damage to your organs when consumed! So be sure that you have an experienced guide when hunting for these woodland delicacies.
What kind of soil “Ph” do morels like?
As mentioned, morel mushrooms grow best in soil that is alkaline. What does this mean exactly? Well, a soil’s Ph (potential of hydrogen) is an indicator of whether or not it is acidic or alkaline. Without going into too much detail, this affects the nutrient availability for plants and mushrooms in soil.
Alkaline soil is defined as being above seven, and acidic soil is defined as being below it, with a normal range for supporting life being somewhere in the region of 5.5 to 7.5. This Ph figure is affected by the minerality of the soil (clay, lime, etc.) as well as the living biome around it, which means the trees, plant life, microbiology, and so on.
So what “soil type” do they like?
With this in mind, what kind of environment has the soil which is most amenable to morels? You’re going to want to look for somewhere with good drainage – morels do not grow anywhere sodden or inundated. Likewise, avoid soil that is high in clay content and also anywhere that hardwood trees grow, such as Oaks.
Any experienced mushroom picker will tell you that some of the best places to look are old apple orchards. The reason for this is that in many cases, the soil will have been limed to help the trees grow, meaning that the level of alkalinity is higher than your average woodlands. Anecdotally, olive groves have also been said to be good places to find morels.
As well as this, other trees that cause the soil to have a higher level of alkalinity are sycamores, ashes, and elms.
Another thing to note is that in the springtime following a forest fire, you may also be likely to encounter morels growing in the remains of the forest. In fact, anywhere that the trees have been felled for industrial logging have also been said to be hotspots for morels.
Where can I find them?
In early sping, it’s advised that you go to the edge of the forest as the ground begins to warm, and then look deeper into the forest when it gets warmer. Soil that is slightly sandy or loamy, with a decent level of alkalinity is your best bet.
You want it to be warm but not so warm that all of the moisture evaporates, so places with a little bit of sunshine as well as some shade are ideal. Too much sunshine the whole area will dry out, meaning that the myceleum can’t develop properly, too much water and the morels simply won’t grow.
Ideally, morels like to grow in the shade. So some of the best places to look are around decaying logs, or in little areas of shade on the side of forested hills. Also worth noting is that they may appear beneath leaves on the floor of the forest as well, so when you’re hunting be sure to overturn a few leaves.
What month is best for morels?
Springtime is the best period for hunting morel mushrooms – depending on where you’re hunting, the earliest you will find them is in March, and the latest being some time in June. Mushrooms appear when the conditions are right, meaning the temperature, moisture along with the soil type that we’ve already discussed.
The fact is though, that they will spore and sprout whenever the conditions are right, so if you have the right combinations of conditions, then you may have a chance of finding them outside of the specific times that we’ve mentioned here.
What weather kills morels?
Morels need particular conditions to grow, and when the temperature drops below freezing, that’s when your morels are really in trouble. Likewise, you want to check that the temperature doesn’t get much higher than 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 Degrees in Celcius) because at that stage they begin to decompose.
In terms of the levels of rain, morels require some kind of moisture to survive (this being the reason that they come out in Springtime). So when you’re hunting, be sure to check that the conditions the previous few days align with what exactly the morels need to do their thing – otherwise you’ll be returning home empty-handed!
What is the best time of day to hunt morels?
If you want to find morels, the conditions have to be as described above, so try to hunt while the temperature is somewhere between 40-50 degrees F (5-10 degrees celcius) – this is likely going to be in the morning to early afternoon time, depending on the weather on that day.
If you are going out hunting, the earlier the better, and once the ideal temperature hits, the morels should start popping up around old logs and shady areas!