O hi! It’s the half-free morel. These guys are some of the first to pop up.
This handsome fellow stands on a lakeshore under a towering sycamore. Watch out, verpa mushrooms (Verpa bohemica) are very similar in appearance and are toxic. However, the toxic verpa mushroom’s cap attaches to the stem at the top of the cap and hangs down. Also, toxic verpas have “white hair” inside their stalks.
On the other hand, half-free morel caps attach to the stem half way up. And, they are hallow inside like all true morels.
The MI Dept. of Community Health has a very good publication on verpas vs half-free morels. Knowing the difference is a must for any morel hunter.
Cottonmouth chillin’ on a rocky slope at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge. This friendly friend is venomous. It’s best to learn the patterns of venomous species in your area instead of relying on ID “tricks”. In my part of the world, but maybe not yours, venomous snakes have diamond shaped heads, but non-venomous snakes will flatten their heads into diamond-like shapes to look more scary, along with vibrating their tails in leaves to fake a rattle.
Once a huge black rat snake reared up and shook its tail at me real hard on a trail. It was just about the CUTEST THING EVER.
See, Swampland Twilight post for more Mingo images and info.
The mock oyster mushroom, Phyllotopsis nidulans. To me, it doesn’t look like a typical oyster because it’s orange and peach fuzzy on top. But, it does have gills and a fan shape similar to typical oysters. I didn't think to sniff this outcrop, but supposedly it stinks like cabbage and is very unpalatable. If you want to make some cool spore prints, these guys’ are pink!
Most folks have heard the term fiddlehead, a young unfurling fern leaf.
But have you heard of the BULBLET or FERNLET ???
Bulblets are structures that form on some fern’s leaves. When they contact the ground a new baby fern may begin to grow, a fernlet. How cute is that? These fernlets are the result of vegetative or asexual reproduction. No spores required!
My fiddlehead pics above, from 2020 near Franklin County MO.
Image Source: bulblet and fernlet from US Forest Service.
It might look like zombie bait, but it’s the big read false morel mushroom, Gyromitra caroliniana. These brainy growths signal warming soils. The appearance of true morels is not far off. Watch out, the big red false morel is considered poisonous. Learn more about them here.
Usually reishi mushrooms have a brighter redish to orange shiny candy coating surface when not dusted with spores. An important mushroom in Chinese medicine it is currently being studied for many important health benefits.
The research is still emerging. Check out one of many studies - long citation under the cut.
My pic of Ganoderma species, southern Missouri 2015.
Wachtel-Galor S, Yuen J, Buswell JA, et al. Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi): A Medicinal Mushroom. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/#
Last year I found baby oyster mushrooms while morel hunting. They were so so cute I decided to leave them to grow. Several days later I came back to the same spot. No longer swayed by their adorable babyness, I collected them and ate them for dinner
Baby, adult, and breaded oysters from Spring 2020. I wash my oysters with the sprayer on my sink then fully dry them. Next, I dust them with bread crumbs and salt and pan fry them in butter until brown.
Imho, a fresh, perfectly cooked oyster is just as good as a morel.