Thursday, March 20, 2008

Douse and Dry - Rain, Floods, and Morels

A few people have asked me about the effects of the recent rains on the upcoming morel season and I can only say that it can't hurt. When it comes to morels, it is hard to say we are getting too much rain.

That is unless you are hunting the river and creek bottoms and your favorite patches are flooded. Flooding can be a problem for morel hunters but usually it is a blessing. Now the big floods of say 1993 and 1995, they did have an effect on morel production. They occurred later in summer and it was very hard to find even a single morel growing the following springs in the flooded zones. I believe that the layer of mud and silt they left behind either smothered or somehow adversely effected the mycelium which accounted for the lack of mushrooms. It only took a year though for them to start showing up again. As they returned and were found in the spring of 95 and 97. Keep in mind this was only based on my experiences. If any old timers out there were finding morels in the flooded zones in the spring of 94 and 96, let me know, I'd be interested in hearing the details.

There was a smaller flood last summer, but the water didn't get near quite as high as it did in 93 and 95, nor did the flood waters remain in place as long which may have drowned the mycelium. Last year's flood at least along most parts of the Missouri only lasted 5-10 days and left a thin inch or two layer of silt. Since it happened early in the summer, the woods have seemed to recuperated just fine and you can hardly tell where the flooding occurred walking through there today. So, I don't think it will have too much effect.

As for any flooding that occurred in the past few days, it can only be good. In fact, many argue that it is exactly that sort of soaking that really kicks the mycelium into producing primordial (or tiny mushrooms) which eventually grow to become the morels that we pick. In fact, Michael Kuo, in his book Morels, describes a similar effect at the Dan Reservoir in Israel (p.142).

Never heard of the Dan Reservoir before? Well if you are a morel hunter you won't soon forget it, because if your hard up to hunt in late summer or fall it is the place to go. Morels can be found there 9 months out of the year. Kuo documents reports from the reservoir illustrating that the discharge of the main spring floods the smaller channels each year. As the water recedes and the riverbanks begin to dry, morels appear on the exposed banks. As the waterline recedes more exposing more riverbank more morels would pop up hence allowing one to hunt for the nine months that the waterline steadily drops (May through Mid-January). The remaining months the riverbank is underwater and no morels can be found.

Of course this is mere observation and speculation and there really isn't any true scientific research dedicated to the "douse and dry" prorogation of morels. However, from my own experience, I have found morels growing along the banks of the Missouri within inches of the water and well below the waterline from only weeks before. So, if your prime honey hole got flooded recently, I highly recommend keeping a close eye on it as the season fires up. It could produce a flood of morels.

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