Edible Mushroom Forecast May/June
So what are naturals? Basically, they are morels that fruit naturally without the need for a burn, clear-cut, or other types of disturbed area. Next, you will want to know how/where to find them. The secret to natural morels is to know your trees. In this case, you must know how to recognize Abeis grandis, which has the common names Grand Fir, Giant Fir, Lowland White Fir, Great Silver Fir, Western White Fir, Vancouver Fir, and Oregon Fir. I prefer to call it a Grand Fir.
For many years, morels were considered to be saprobic due to their ability to fruit from decaying or non-living matter without a plant or tree in sight. However, more and more mycologists now believe morels can be both saprobic and mycorrhizal; having an association with a living plant. Given that the presence of Grand Firs is essential for finding a natural morel in our area, I tend to agree with the mycorrhizal theory. If you want to find natural morels you must know and find this tree. If you find a healthy growing Grand Fir you will most likely find blonde naturals nearby. If you find a stressed or dying Grand Fir, look for natural blacks.
In combing through the CMS forums there are also mentions of Ponderosa Pines and other trees in the Pinus genus. And, some mentions of shrubs in the genus Ceanothus (common name Buckbrush and Snowbrush), currants (genus Ribes), and Manzanita (genus Arctostaphylos). But, everyone seems to agree that Grand Firs are the granddaddy for finding morels, they are mentioned over and over again – GRAND, GRAND, GRAND.
The other secret is location. Your best bet is to head for Central Oregon. You need to get past the Cascade Range divide to have success. Either over the Santiam Pass on Hwy 20 or the Willamette pass on Hwy 58. Can you find a few natural morels west of the divide, perhaps, but very few. A good spot seems to be the Ochoco National Forest east of Prineville. Getting to a prime spot from Eugene will definitely be a drive. The good news is, once you are east of the Cascades and have found a patch of Grand Fir you can also look for Spring King Boletes. The Spring Kings start fruiting a little later than the morels, but their season overlaps and their habitat is essentially the same.
You can expect to be finding both morels and Spring King Boletes east of the Cascade Range from now until late June, later if you are lucky. Wherever you go, be sure to abide by the local mushroom permit requirements.
A word about species of morels: According to the Morel Data Collection Project (MDCP) that was conducted between 2001 and 2010, we have 6 species of morels in Oregon: Morchella tomentosa, Morchella frustrata, Morchella snyderi, Morchella esculentoides, Morchella brunnea, Morchella importuna. You can read the full results of this taxonomic project here.
Pretty much all that I know about morels I learned from the CMS forums and from foraying with a few forum members. Special thanks to Chickenofthewoods for all of your expertise on Morels.
Bonus Summer Forecast: For those of you who missed Anna Moore’s last presentation on Mushrooms of the Oregon Dunes I will let you know that the Coast is your best bet for summer mushrooms. According to Anna, the Chanterelles begin to appear again in June. There won’t be many and they won’t be large. But, the coastal fog does bring them up. If the coast does get some summer rains it gets even better. Even if you don’t find anything a day at the coast is always fun. And, don’t forget we do have some mushrooms that start fruiting in August even before our fall rains. Most common are the chicken of the woods, lobster, and the Cantharellus roseocanus, a Chanterelle that fruits on the coast near Spruce trees.