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Morel mushrooms need 5 things to emerge and the reason they are so elusive is all five have to fall into place correctly or when the other conditions are present before they can push through the ground and produce the above ground bloom that sends out spores and produces what we all know as a morel..

1. Morchella Mushrooms propogate by sending a hairlike mycelium underground.
The ground can't be so compact that it blocks the mycelium from doing it's thing. This is also where the moisture and heat help soften the soil as things thaw out in the spring. The ground being less compact and saturated with extra moisture are also what makes streams and creekbeds such good places to check.

2. The mycelium needs to find a subsoil food source (decaying tree roots) or surface seeping food source (fallen bark) for the energy and nutrients it expands as it sends the mushroom top up through the soil. This is where the dead roots of mature elms or slipping bark around the base of recently dead tree become one of the critical elements necessary for fruition.

3. In many of the books I've read they say that night time temperatures need to be above 40 degrees for at least 4 days in a row.The overnight lows and daytime highs are key in creating the necessary ground temperatures that everyone knows are a big factor. This is also why burn areas warm up faster and tend to help create necessary conditions when the blackened earth helps warm the soil and create food sources for the mycelium by killing the trees or outer bark.

4. Daytime temperatures need to be at least above 70 degrees for one or more days as well as the overnight lows remaining above 40 degrees before they come out of their dormant state from winter. The combination of overnight lows and daytime highs directly affect ground temperature. We all know ground temperature is necessary, but have any of you actually taken a thermometer out to check the ground temp levels? Knowing the exact ground temperatures is kind of one of those useless things that we know needs to fall into place and will with time, but unless you're growing them in a lab it doesn't really matter for the morel enthusiast.

5. The last and probably the most critical thing to fall in place is the moisture! We all know how important it is to have moisture at the right times, but we also need the moisture along with heat. Even though we've had late spring rains and more moisture than previous years we need the heat and moisture together to create the correct growing conditions that Morchella mushrooms need. Even though the mycelia underground start to awaken once ground temps come up they also need hot days to really do their thing and let the fungus grow.

In NE Iowa we're close and there probably are a few mushrooms starting to pop through the surface if you're lucky enough to find the early ones. More cold coming over the next couple days isn't ideal, but they're also predicting 40%-50% chances of rain almost every day over the next week which will help as the other conditions have already fallen into place. Traditionally it's around the first week of May, Mother's Day, when the May Applescome up, Lilac buds and dandelions emerge....blah, blah, blah everyone has their own indicator or has heard weird things like when a budding oak leaf is as big as a mouse's ear......whatever you want to belive in and works for you.

The way I see it, things are right on track and we're just waiting for the daytime temps and moisture components to fall into place and next week looks better than right now. The nice thing about the cool Spring and extra rain passing through right now is that it's setting up for better conditions than we've had the last couple years.

The worst thing that could happen would be windy or hot days without moisture that make the subsoil and surface moisture disappear.

Good luck to all and remember someone has to be the first one to find a few. Congrats if you already have! I bet they're out there if you look. Next week should be easier. I went out yesterday and didn't find any, but we're getting close and have decent conditions this year.

6. Whatever you do, use a breathable mesh bag so the spores can drop as you walk rather than using a plastic grocery store type bag. Once they have sprouted as described above they still need to get fertilized by the blowing spores above ground so they'll continue on in the future. I'll call this the 6th condition for perpetuation in the future!

Happy Hunting!

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