Another early morning jaunt in the woods - this time again with Sue Barlett and Dan Poffenberger - but another day coming out empty-handed. The morels this year are elusive at best.
Still, by 8:30 am we are pushing our way through the tangles in Bob's woods - a "virgin woods" as Dan calls it, never having been hunted for mushrooms - but the spring scenery is exquisite if almost barren of fungi.We spread out, each going our own way. I tried to use a "Z" pattern to cover as much of the woods as possible in my section.
Podophyllum peltatum - Mayapple (Mandrake)
I first came upon a patch of Mayapples, standing in the dense woods, their green umbrella tops standing stiffly. They pick the rare sunny spots, where the spring sun angles just right between the tall trees. I've always used these as a sign of the morel's timing. The two go together. Usually.
Trillium erectum - Purple Trillium
Unlike the usual white Trillium, the purple variety - while said to be the most common variety - holds these small royal flowers which seem forever closed. I did not smell them but I understand they attract carrion flies for pollination with their foul scent. They are part of the Lily family.
Dan noticed this fresh fungi growing on a rotting log. He broke the upper piece off and I turned it upside down to photograph the delicate gills underneath. I have no idea about the edibility of this fungus so I limit myself to true morels which I can easily - and surely - identify.
As I pushed out of the woods on the east side of Bob's pond, Dan had already exited opposite me and was sitting on a bench. The pond's most vocal residents at the moment are frogs, hundreds of them, which squeak like frightened mice as we walked by. Plop! They swim swiftly away. Dan saw a few tadpoles, already mostly developed into full-fledged frogs.
Does Bob know there's an outhouse in his woods? Surely this speaks of earlier inhabitants of his land. He still uses a small cabin and this is just south of there. So maybe it is not so old? Maybe this was more of a hunter's camp, a fisherman's gathering place?
Sue exited the woods behind Bob's house and we all grouped at the turn-around and talked a few minutes about what we saw on our walk. We all agreed on this: no morels. Not a one. by 9:30 am we were finished.
I suppose it is about time to give it up for this year. I may check a local site a few more times but it seems the year is getting too late for these marvelous mushrooms.