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Discover Nature: Morel Mushrooms

A black morel mushroom with dark, honeycomb patter, conical top emerges on a cream-colored stem from a forest floor.
A black morel mushroom emerges from the forest floor. Morel mushrooms develop in diverse 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 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. 

Kyle Felling was born in the rugged northwest Missouri hamlet of St. Joseph (where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended). Inspired from a young age by the spirit of the early settlers who used St. Joseph as an embarkation point in their journey westward, Kyle developed the heart of an explorer and yearned to leave for adventures of his own. Perhaps as a result of attending John Glenn elementary school, young Kyle dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but was disheartened when someone told him that astronauts had to be good at math. He also considered being a tow truck driver, and like the heroes of his favorite childhood television shows (The A-Team and The Incredible Hulk) he saw himself traveling the country, helping people in trouble and getting into wacky adventures. He still harbors that dream.
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