Morel Fever

March 14th and Morel Season is right around the corner in the Great Valley of East Tennessee. It’s still cold, although we’ve gotten a few wam days. Early blood root is blooming in my backyard wild flower garden and some erect trillium is almost ready to bloom. I’ve been feeding the fever by painting a few more watercolors. I’ll probably take some to the AMC foray April 6.

What’s the prognostication? Right now rainfall is about 6-7 inches above normal since January 1st. Night temperatures have held steady in the 20’s and 30’swith a few colder dips in December. Soil temperature is still about 40 degrees. We should get a flush when the soil temp reaches 50 degrees. Steve P. says that takes five straight nights with lows of 50 degrees or higher. That’s a good rule of thumb. Because sun angle affects soil temperature, look on the south ridge tops first. Rich S. says look for morels when poplar leaves get the size of squirrel ears. This works too. As for yellow morels, look when the bluebells bloom.

Last year was strange. We had a rash of hot weather early, on top of of drier conditions. With some 80 degree days, soil temp went above 55 degrees quickly and it was a short and sparse season in the Valley. I found my first one on March 20, but most usually productive patches started to produce and then abruptly stopped when the soil temp shot up. Rains have been occuring on a weekly basis. Rain is predicted for Sunday and Monday. If our weather stays steady  and then warms gradually, we should have a bumper crop.

I’ve gotten reports of morels in south Georgia and the wave will be spreading northward soon. Next Monday I am heading to Alabama. Predicted temps in Birmingham are warm days and nights beginning tomorrow (Friday) and lasting until Thursday. I’ll be stopping at some productive patches there on Tuesday and again on Thursday. I’ll post my results here. I will also be checking out some new sites south of Tuscaloosa in the Black Warrior River area also on Wednesday.

Now that I am retired, I will be hunting morels everyday until mid-April, so look for reports and also recipes. Ramps were early last year and then the heat got them. This should be a good ramp year also. My backyard patch is still not up.

If you come to Tennessee REMEMBER that turkey season opens Saturday March 30th. Wear orange, especially in the early morning.


4 thoughts on “Morel Fever

  1. Whitey,

    Thanks for the post! I’ve been trying to sharpen my tree I.D. skills this winter, using bark as a guide, but I just got back from Fall Creek Falls and was surprised to find many rangers couldn’t identify several trees I inquired about, even poplars. I was hoping to use their knowledge to supplement my own, but in lieu of that, could you post some tips or photos of trees you plan to scout out when morel hunting? It would be a big help, as the tip about squirrel ears will help a bunch once I’ve seen it. I understand you’re preparing to keep busy, but I’d love to benefit from your experience before you head out full time!


  2. You aren’t alone. Bark is pretty good but takes a bit of experience when the trees are atypical. Bark often changes with age. So, if you’ve learned the bark of young trees, look up a mature tree a ways to where the bark is diffeent, and younger than the base.
    Now . . during morel season, the leaves are just coming out and that helps a lot. Ash trees have opposite leaves and poplar have alternate leaves. Start looking now, and as the trees flower as they are easier (poplar, ash, oaks, and hickory) to identify. Once you are positive in your I.D. examine the bark and look around at the other trees. Hickory branches are much thicker than the others. Oak flowers will be gathered at the tips of branches in clusters. Poplar flowers look like little tulips. Look arounf the ground and you will see the fallen flowers and get pretty good at these four main tree groups pretty quickly.
    Now, go on the internet and look under “tree identification” and “tree flower identification” and pick a site from a university or in particular any “.edu” site. If you use the word “dendrology – the identification of trees, you will find a great site readily. I’ll see if I can find one to recommend to you.
    Good Hunting – Whitey

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