This section is a quick explanation of some of the identifying characteristics of Morchella species which fall into the taxonomic family Morchellaceae.

As with all of these pages, they are NOT intended to be used as a key or diagnostic tool, but a guide of basic identifying characteristics so that you can make informed decisions and easy-access to other, more detailed resources. 

Edibility Basics

Morchella, True Morels

Morchella, The Morels

Morchella are mycorrhizal, meaning that they grow in association with plants, usually trees. Some trees/plants they are believed to be mycorrhizal with include privet, apple, elm, ash and oak. They often fruit in moss-beds or regions of disturbed soil and grow in clusters, gregariously, or alone. Morels like to grow with stable soil temps of about 55F in the very early Spring. Check for them on slopes and fields that hold moderate moisture (intermittent sun exposure).

The fruitbody of Morchella spp. have large asymmetrical pits inside of which the microscopic ascus (sac) hold spores for dispersal upon disturbance (like when the wind blows). The stipe AND cap will ALWAYS be hollow. The color of the pileus (cap) is variable from yellow-tan-grey-dark brown and often have blackened edges when they dry with age. 

Two misconceptions regarding morels: there are no "grey morels" on the east coast. Our grey morels are just young specimens of some of our yellow morel species. Also, the "burn morels" that fruit after forest fires do not occur east of the Rocky Mountains. Determining to species can be a tricky endeavor when it comes to morels, but they all share some key features that can ID them as "morels"

Photo by Jean Cox


Where in Alabama?


You are most likely to find Morels growing above the frost line in Alabama. When they do occur below the frost line, it is only sparsely. Generally, the farther north in the state, the better chance to find Morels. 

Map by Spencer Lowery


Features

No photo description available.
Grey and Yellow

Many of the "yellow morel" species appear more grey when young and turn more blonde as they get older.


Photo by Tim Pfitzer


Black

M. angusticeps is our known "black morel" species. 
M. importuna may possibly occur in Alabama and is also a "black morel"

Photo by Michael Kuo



Hollow

True Morels all have a completely hollow stipe and body. If they are solid or contain wispy, cottony fibers, then they are not true morels.



Photo by Jean Cox
Fruitbody

 This genus is defined by the pronounced pits, and hollow stipe/body.  The fruitbody of Morhcella spp. have large asymmetrical pits inside of which the microscopic ascus (sac) hold spores for dispersal upon disturbance (like when the wind blows). The stipe AND cap will ALWAYS be hollow. The color of the pileus (cap) is variable from tan-grey-dark brown and often have blackened edges when they dry with age

Photo by Jean Cox

Cook Well!


 Morels dry and reconstitute remarkably well and store (completely dry) for years! I've also quite successfully powdered the cooked and dried fruitbody as a robust, meaty seasoning. Morels and their allies need to be cooked thoroughly. Oftentimes the 'poisonings' associated with these types of mushrooms are due to them being under-cooked. That means that even if you are going to powder the mushrooms as a seasoning/salt, you should bake them (~170F) before powdering. 
If cooking to eat immediately, we recommend cutting them up and cooking thoroughly to avoid any GI upset. 


Lookalikes

Gyromitra

 The genus Gyromitra also fall into the phylum of ascocarps and are often the harbingers of Morchella (or at least they tend to like the same general environments and fruit at about the same time of year). While these too have a hollow stipe and cap, they will lack the very distinctive pits seen with Morchella. Some of the species in this genus produce a toxin called gyromitrin, which can cause renal failure. Our stance at the AMS is to not eat them as they are not 'beginner' mushrooms.  

Phalliceae

The genus Phallus, a branch of the stinkhorns (Phallaceae) will actually erupt from an 'egg' like structure and be covered with sticky and stinky spore mass called a gleba. The stipes will not be hollow, and you probably don't want to eat these stinky things. 




Please remember to seek other sources for confirmation before consuming any wild mushroom


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