All Morels Are Good Morels
When you find a cache of morels so large that you can fill a 5 gallon bucket in a matter of hours, it’s not hard to become obsessed.
We all already have the mushroom bug… just wait until you fuel it with this kind of unprecedented reward! If you are scratching your head wondering what the heck I’m talking about, I am referring to the thrill of the Western burn morel chase. It’s a bucket list activity that is incredibly rewarding if you are a morel lover.
Realistically though, it’s not always feasible for most of us to jump on a plane or drive thousands of miles West to chase burn morels! For those of you in other areas of the country, we have some exciting new mapping and research tools that will help you find mushrooms “in your own backyard” so to speak.
Disturbance Morels Grow Everywhere
For those of you who do not happen to be living in these western burn morel hot zones, these new tools are useful anywhere in the Continental US (CONUS). All morels love a good disturbance! This can mean that “disturbance” morels will grow in old fires near you even if they are not a true burn morel species. They will also grow in areas disturbed by forest management – cuts and thins, burns, and roads/trail areas. While you may not experience the same level of abundance we see with true burn morel flushes in the West, you might hit a few motherlodes in these types of disturbed areas. If they are in the right forest type, and your weather is ideal (wet and warm enough), disturbed areas are well worth your time to check out.
More Maps, More Terrain
So here’s a quick overview of the mapping and research tools we offer for mushroom hunters all over the US. I’m excited to use some of these tools in Wisconsin this year – when all that snow melts!
Wildfire Perimeters for the Whole USA
This year we added wildfire perimeters for the entire US. Because as I mentioned – while true burn morel species are typically not found outside the western states, “disturbance” morels can be found in wildfire scars anywhere in the right conditions. Both our precipitation map and our comprehensive map now show wildfire burn perimeters… everywhere in the US!
As mentioned morels love a good disturbance, and who better to create disturbances than the US Forest Service. The stewardship maps, available inside our new comprehensive map, show all US forest management activities for the last three years. This includes things like cuts and thins, controlled burns, and the creation of logging roads, power lines and trail maintenance zones. You can use layers to choose the year or turn them all on at once.
You all already know that mushrooms like moisture. Without average rainfall in any area, our outlooks can become pretty bleak. This precipitation map is a tool all mushroom hunters can use! Last year in Wisconsin, much like many areas around the US, we experienced pretty severe draught. These abnormal weather patterns directly affected our mushroom season. With no rain, certain mushrooms did not even bother to fruit – i’m looking at you black trumpets! There are free precipitation tools out there on the internet; we’ve even introduced you to them in a precipitation blog post. However, they are a bit difficult to utilize in just the way you need as a forager.
When we were planning the WI Northwoods Foray last September (’22), we really struggled to find foray locations that were actively producing mushrooms. So we buckled down and did some online research to help us out. What did this look like you ask? We primarily studied precipitation maps and forest types. We needed new areas within a 30-45 minute radius of the foray location offering the right forest type (typically Oak in our case), that had received rain.
With all the scouting and research we learned some interesting things. Since this was such a short window of study our findings may not hold true every year, but last year we noticed some patterns in the WI woods. During the drought, mushrooms were showing not in the areas that received the most rain in the last two weeks, but more so in the areas that had had rain 6 weeks ago! The draught lasted all summer and into the fall, so this makes sense in a way. Some areas that had been untouched with rain at the time when mushroom primordia wanted to develop just never got going. Other areas touched by rain during that development time allowed them to continue to fruiting stages despite dryness afterward. The areas that were wet 6 weeks ago, and then had received just enough rain moving forward, were where we found the most fungi in these bad conditions.
All this to say – precipitation study is super important, especially when you have not had average rainfall in your mushroom terrain. Our precipitation map not only shows precipitation layers over the burn perimeters, but it also will tell you generally the areas near you that have had the most rainfall over six weeks, and then by each week.
Tree Species Maps
Many of the delicious edibles we seek are growing in partnership with a specific kind of tree. Yet, a mushroom may prefer different trees pending where it is regionally located. Morels are a shining example of this – in different areas of the US, you will find them growing with different types of trees: Apple, Elm, Ash, Tulip, Cottonwood, Poplar, Aspen, Grand Fir, Douglas Fir, Oak – the list goes on.
NOTE: Right now, our tree maps only show conifer species beneficial for western morel hunting, but in the coming weeks you will find all Eastern and Western deciduous trees have been added!
In order to find the mushrooms you seek, you need to consult the trees. Natural morels in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains love to grow with grand firs for example (and also Douglas firs which are more widespread). Wouldn’t it be nice to know where the range of grand firs in the Cascades?
I promise you it’s not quite just this easy to find those natural morel tricksters, but it’s a damn good start.
Forest Type Maps
Sometimes drilling down to tree species is more detail than you need. We also have “forest type” maps which provide a larger picture overlay. These maps give helpful information to quickly see forest information without getting down to the species level. This map shows all forest types and is available for the entire US.
While burns, forestry, rainfall, tree species and forest types are all fun and useful information for mushroom hunters, sometimes we just need good map utility. You’ll find several basemaps and overlays to help with your reasearch:
- USFS maps show forested areas in a green shade and have excellent forest service road details as well as campgrounds, public access areas, gates and more. We recommend you use these maps for road information.
- Google Terrain shows roads combined with contour lines to help visualize the landscape.
- Motor Vehicle Usage Maps (MVUM) overlays come from the forest service and provide additional details on what roads are open for motor vehicle use, as well as details on the type of motor vehicles allowed.
- Google Roads
- Google Satellite is always useful and surprisingly detailed.
Want to add these new maps to your toolkit? They are currently part of our burn morel maps membership. For $39 you will have access to everything described above, plus all of our traditional burn morel maps – just in case you make that trip out West!
Help Us Help You
We are always looking to increase the functionality of our maps. And while we love hunting the burns, we also hunt naturals where we are – always! These days we frequent the PNW, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Colorado. Often this means we need more tools in our bevy. Tree maps, forest types and precipitation maps were high on the list and you can expect more of these types of maps to become available to you over time.
The new maps are constantly in development, so if you have any ideas for improvement, let us know! In the meantime, enjoy the hunt! It should be a good year with all this broadly distributed precipitation.
I am currently taking your online foraging class. Regarding burn morels, how do you determine if a burn area has been doused with fire retardant? I assume that such a dousing would make the burn morels toxic. Am I wrong? And if so, how does one locate burns where fire retardant has not been used? Thanks.
Hi Thomas, Thanks for your question! It’s a hard one to answer with any kind of reassurance. Typically I suggest people avoid the edges of the burns where retardant is likely to have been dumped and certainly avoid picking in areas where you see it. I believe that morels are known to pick up heavy metals, but nothing else that could cause harm. I will defer to Trent who would also like to weigh in on this one! I do not know how to find out if retardant was used on a wildfire. That is a good question to bank for the forest service.
Wow, this is a great tutorial on using maps to find mushrooms! I was originally searching for a map of “where to find mushrooms”, but this gives a better explanation for how and what to look for in maps. This feels like a library guide with how well information is presented and the great sources.
Thanks for this, and I will definitely be citing this page as needed!
Hi Trent and Kristen, as always love the website. Just a thought: Ever consider setting up a Forum page for your members, so we can connect/learn from each other and 411? Thanks, Scott (Mesick/CO/OR)