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Arts and Culture

Discover Nature: Morel Mushrooms

A wicker basket sits in green grass, full to the brim with harvested morel mushrooms.
Morels are found on the ground in a variety of habitats, including moist woodlands and in river bottoms. They are often associated with ash trees, dying elms, and apple trees, although they are found elsewhere as well.

As nighttime temperatures begin to climb and soil warms in Missouri’s woods, a fungal favorite of foragers begins to emerge.

 

This week on discover nature, keep an eye to the ground for morel mushrooms. 

 

Morels are hollow-stemmed mushrooms, with a somewhat conical cap, covered with definite pits and ridges, resembling a sponge, pinecone, or honeycomb.  

 

These choice-edibles grow in a variety of habitats including moist woodlands and river bottoms. 

 

Morels exist most of the time underground as a network of cells – or mycelium – connected to tree roots, rotting material, and the soil. When soil warms in early spring the mycelium develops the reproductive structure we recognize as a morel, which releases millions of spores from each cap to continue the lifecycle. 

 

Morels are treasured for their delicious flavor and the fun of the hunt – often a family tradition spanning generations. 

 

Before eating any wild mushrooms, be completely certain you’ve correctly identified them.  Some morel lookalikes can be poisonous and even deadly. 

 

Learn more about morel mushrooms, including how to identify and how to cook them, with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide and the Missouri Mycological Society

 

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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