Sunday, April 12, 2009

Early signs at Rock Bridge

I wasn't able to get out to my usual spots on Saturday because I was volunteering at Rock Bridge State Park. I was too busy to really have a good look around, though I did get to take a quick walk through a few areas in the park where I have known morels to be found before. I think it may still be a little too soon judging by the signs.

Jon, who often takes photos with me, was also volunteering and spent more time on the trail than I. Along the way he found some signs that things should pick up soon in the park so anyone who hunts that area should plan to check their early spots this week if you haven't already.

Here is a false morel (which I'd not recommend eating). This is what many people would call a "red" morel. The thing to note about this one is that it is still relatively young and fresh, appearing to have come up probably early last week. Since these usually come up about 2-3 weeks before morels that means things should start happening soon.

Jon also happened across these nice little half-free morels (which I do eat). They are tasty but not much there so you really need to find a lot to make a good meal. They too often appear a little earlier than true morels. They have a look-a-like that grows in this area called a wrinkled thimble cap. Jon took some good pictures of these half-frees that might help you distinguish between the two. First and most important is the stem. Half-frees have a completely hollow stem (as seen below). Verpas have cotton-like filaments or hairs inside their stems.

Also, notice the cap is pitted like a morel and not wrinkled or folded like the false morel above. Verpa caps are very wrinkled although sometimes this can appear like pits so it is always best to check the stem to be sure. Many people do indeed eat the verpas but there are numerous reports of people getting sick after eating them so it is always better to be safe than sorry. Check out for more information and pictures on verpas.

With these mushrooms up, the morels should be along soon, if they are not up already. I haven't heard any reports from Rock Bridge yet but I am sure they will come in soon.

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