True Morels

2019 June 23

Sandy and Sam presented me with these fine morel specimens on May 26, 2019. They found them under some of the feral apple trees north of the house.


According to the pamphlet “May is Morel Month in Michigan” (MSU Cooperative Extension Service)[1], these appear to be the dark variety of Morchella angusticeps, which is the most common variety of morel here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. As you can see by comparing one with the size of my hand, these are around 3-4 inches long, definitely big enough to be worth picking.

Morels are very distinctive, with a highly wrinkled and convoluted surface that would start generating spores once it becomes fully ripe. They really don’t look that much like the false morels that I posted back on May 19.


When cut in half, they are hollow, with the stem blending directly into the base of the head. This is in contrast to most other mushrooms, where the stem connects to the top of the cap while the cap either hangs down like a skirt or spreads like an umbrella. This distinctive one-piece hollow structure of morels makes them extremely easy to distinguish from other, possibly toxic mushrooms. As a result, morels are one of the few wild mushrooms that can be eaten with good confidence that it is safe.

These were excellent fried up with a little butter. They have a smooth texture, and a pleasant, fairly distinctive taste. Everyone liked them.

Then, later that same day, Sandy and Sam found some more morels, this time in the lawn under one of the domesticated apple trees in our front yard. These were similar, but clearly a different species, as they had a more rounded shape and significantly paler color.

These look like Morchella esculenta, which is a less common variety up here, but in the Lower Peninsula is apparently the dominant species.


They have the same hollow structure as the dark morels. They were also equally tasty.


So, while morels are found lots of places, Michigan is particularly well-known for them, as they do particularly well in cool, wet woodlands. Morel hunting is a fairly popular pastime in the spring, because with minimal training you can be pretty certain of not accidentally poisoning yourself, and they are pretty tasty fungi. The only downside is that it is evidently difficult to actually propagate them on purpose. There have been some attempts to cultivate them commercially, with limited success. They grow where they feel like growing, and that’s more or less that. One of the issues appears to be that the fungus mycelium has to grow underground for some years before it produces the edible above-ground fruiting bodies.

[1] We have a paper copy of the pamphlet that doesn’t have a date on it, but the cover price is only 40 cents. The new version, available through this link, was updated in 2015 and now costs $5. That’s inflation for you, I guess. It isn’t a very big pamphlet for the price, but then again, $5 is a lot cheaper than a trip to the hospital to get your stomach pumped, you know what I mean?

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