Do you have a favorite path or natural
place that you like to walk? If so, and if you have been walking
this path for several years, then perhaps you are already aware
of the many signs that are placed in your view to provide you with
critical information about that place. The signs are everywhere,
but for many of us, they have become incomprehensible, invisible,
We live in a world that is ordered, inter-linked, and cyclical.
Through focused observation of the natural world, we are given "signs"
that can help us to understand and operate in harmony within this
natural order. This article will discuss the signs of Spring, and
how observing these signs can lead you to a delicious and difficult-to-find
natural bounty — morel mushrooms.
Finding morels in the state of Colorado is about being in the "right
place" at the "right time". Map and calendar references
are too simplistic and likely to fail in providing a novice with
adequate information to find morels.This is because the growth of
morels is conditioned upon a complex and symbiotic relationship of
environment, weather, topography, and other bio-systems. Luckily
for us all, specific signs are provided in nature that can guide
us to our desired fruiting bodies.
Let's start the search with the signs that point to the "right
Plant and topographic indicators provide confirmation of proper morel
environment. In Colorado, Yellow Morels [Morchella
esculenta] are found along creeks
and rivers in the lowlands. They are usually associated with Narrow
Leaf Cottonwood trees. Look for wide flat zones within river
flood plains. The presence of Motherwort and
mints are indicators of good hunting grounds. Black Morels [Morchella
in the foothills and mountains within stands of mixed Pine and Aspen
trees. While Black Morels are more widespread than Yellow Morels,
wide flat areas that hold water are almost always a superior environment
than hillsides. The presence of Pasque
Flowers and Calypso
Orchids are good indicator plants for Black Morels.
Morel mushrooms in the state of Colorado fruit as early as mid-March
in the lower flatlands to as late as mid-July in the mountains. However,
in any given micro-environment, prime morel fruiting will only last
about ten days. Luckily, the same moisture and temperature conditions
that trigger morels to fruit, also trigger specific growth patterns
in common plants. You can use these "easy to find" plants
as a specific indicator of the "right time" to find morels
in specific locations.
Start looking for Yellow Morels in the lowlands when the leaves
of Cottonwood trees are about two inches long and the leaf of the
Narrow Leaf Cottonwood is about three quarters of an inch long. If
you are finding fresh Asparagus about six inches tall, or fresh Oyster
Mushrooms [Pleurotus ostreatus] less than
two inches across, then morels are still a week or two away. Just
as the prime gathering of asparagus ends, the prime gathering of
Yellow Morels begins. Yellow and Black Morels fruit when Oregon
Grape is in flower and when Motherwort and mints are about ten inches tall.
In the mountains, the "right time" to look for Black Morels is when
the leaves of Aspen trees are bright green and about the size of
quarters. The blooming of Pasque Flowers marks the beginning of Black
Morel fruiting in a localized area while the blooming of Calypso
Orchids occurs mid-to-late season. With Black Morels, you can "chase"
the season uphill to higher elevations.
Learning to "read the signs" will deepen your understanding
and appreciation of the environment you live in. If you happen to
be a "shroomer", being able to read the signs provides
the difference between stumbling upon a few mushrooms and herbs or
collecting pounds of mushrooms and wild food (as well as natural
medicines). With a little bit of study, lots of observation and time
spent outdoors you will gain experience in reading the signs and
placing yourself into the "right place" at the "right