This is the four post in our "Species of the Month" series, written by Park Ecologist Peter VanLinn. It's one of several 2014 initiatives meant to share knowledge we have about the Park for those who love it. This month, we spotlight the Yellow Morel.
While we don't disclose their specific Forest Park locations — because morels are highly sought after, it's important that we keep our limited populations flourishing here — we are pleased to provide information that will help you better understand and appreciate this interesting species.
Attributes and Features
Yellow Morels exist most of the year underground as a network of mycelium cells connected to tree roots and rotting material in the soil. In late March, the fruiting bodies we recognize on mushrooms develop and grow out of the ground. Yellow Morels are found on the ground in moist woodlands and river bottomlands. Tree associations include Ash, Elms, Cottonwoods, Oaks, Hickories, Tulip Poplars, Apple trees and a variety of other hardwoods and conifers.
- Scientific Name: Morchella esculenta
- Common Name: Yellow Morel
- Type: Fungus
- Species Family: Morchellaceae
- Park Locations: Undisclosed
- Description: A “club”-shaped mushroom with bulbous cap containing distinctive yellow to yellow-gray and yellow-brown pits, ridges and wrinkles that look similar to a honeycomb or sponge.
- Color: Yellow to yellow-gray to yellow-brown
- Cap: Oval to elongate, fused to stalk at bottom and containing vertical ridges and deep pits.
- Stalk: White, hollow from bottom of stem to cap with a ribbed texture and sometimes enlarged at the base.
- Spores: Creamy to deep yellow, elliptical and smooth, contained inside deep cap pits.
- Season: April to early May
- Look-alikes: *CAUTION* Yellow Morels can look similar to poisonous False Morels. Yellow Morels also look similar to other edibles such as Black Morels and Half-free Morels.
- Length: 3” – 7”, up to 12”
- Width: 1½” – 3”, up to 6”
- Exposure: Part to full shade
- Moisture: Moist, damp
- Soil & Climate: Moist, bottomland soils
- Hardiness Zone: 4 to 9
Native Range – Eastern United States, statewide in Missouri.
Yellow Morels form symbiotic relationships growing underground with the roots of trees to help trees get nutrients. They are considered saprophytes because they decompose dead leaves and wood which returns nutrients form those materials back into the soil to be used by trees.
Yellow Morels are often harvested by people for use in cooking because of the delectable flavors. Though common, these mushrooms are notoriously well camouflaged, which also provides for a fun hunt for those who harvest them.
Habitat and conservation:
Bloodroot grows in rich wooded slopes and valleys.
Note: This information has been collected from the online field guide at mdc.mo.gov and Missouri’s Wild Mushrooms by Maxine Stone and the Missouri Department of Conservation.