Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hunting morels

I have friends who take weeks off from work to hunt morels. These are the folks who send out photos of serious hauls--80, 100, 120 morels a day. I'm not one of those people, but when I'm in the woods during morel season, I walk slower than usual, and certainly wouldn't pass one up. Morels come out when the first asparagus arrives at the Farmer's Market, and together, they make the perfect Easter dinner.

Nevertheless, the last time I found morels was after a 580 acre burn. The fire was almost over, the ring almost circled, and I was instructed to hold my fire where I was. I walked back along the line to see how much had burned. There, in the blackened, smoldering landscape were 20 morels poking up in their creamy splendor. I didn't see them before the fire, as they were buried under 3 years of leaf litter. I quickly plucked each of them, put them in my fire bag, and went back to work. I went back to the site a few weeks later and found more, all rising up out of the freshly burned phlox-warm season grasses-perennial wildflower dominated burn unit.

But that was three years ago.

So last week, while my friends were canvassing the ragged out Missouri River bottoms (and coming out with lots haul of morels), I went to the nice woods. Just last week, reports came in that they were out, in droves. By the time I arrived, I could see cracks in the soil. No rain, no warm days, no new morels. I wasn't there to necessarily look for them, but a casual survey didn't reveal a one. On mentioning this to my local guide, "oh, we have professional morel hunters that come here all the time..." (this accounts for the stray vehicles parked along the gravel road in low moist drainages, as well).

No morels, but a boon of spring wildflowers. The bluebells are quickly losing their elegant flowers, and the buttercups (Ranunculus harveyi, pictured--good dry woodland plant) are just now bursting into bloom. Spring ephemeral season moves along so quickly in the Ozarks, and I'm grateful I've seen it, even if it meant not harvesting a bunch of morels in the dog hair stand of cottonwoods.


Mike Whittemore said...

I went out for morels yesterday only to be sidetracked by photographing plants. Nice post as always. Your writing always has me reading to the very end!

A.L. Gibson said...

Came across your blog through Mike's and glad I did! I always enjoy reading about environments and the flora (both alike and different) outside of my home state of Ohio. Looking forward to more as the Spring season progresses!

Nickelplate said...

I see you've found Pawpaw flowers! Nasty smelling little things, but always remind me of a wake robin. One thing my property lacks in the hollow is a Pawpaw patch. Next year I'll get one started with some seedlings.

Allison Vaughn said...

Make sure that when you plant, you choose the right location--low, moist, bottomlands. They reproduce well from runners, so don't spend a ton of money on a whole bunch of seedlings.