An answer to spring morel woes

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Miss out on the spring morels? Morel fans may be able to make up some lost ground by looking for the orange-colored sulphur fungi that is often called chicken-of-the-woods. (Photo by Jerry Davis)

For a second spring (2020 and 2021), those trekking for morel fungi must have worn out their boots and walking sticks this past May.

There could be a pardon ahead, and sooner than expected.

Phenology would tell us that it is too early for most sulphur fungi (forest fungus) to be fruiting from oak or black cherry logs and injured trees, which is one of the ways the spores from this fungus enter the wood when carried by the wind.

This is a decay fungus, but should fruit from the same area for a number of years in succession.

Regardless, this shelf fungus has been reported this summer in greater than usual numbers and earlier than usual, too.

Don’t let the common name, chicken-of-the-woods, fool you. Maybe the texture and color exhibit some resemblance to a barnyard bird, or maybe to some the shelf mushroom does taste “chickeny,” but there are others who say it is at least as good as spring morels.

If it’s as good, chances are it tastes similar.

Either way, if you identify this bright orange fungus, with pores, not gills on its underside, trim off an inch or so of the outer edge of each shelf and use it as you would any mushroom, and determine for yourself.

This fungus is not common, but is easy to detect, looking similar to a patch of hunter orange cloth on the side of a tree. Even driving at a safe speed, the bracket may be identified.

It grows attached to the tree or log and is best knifed off but can be torn away in an emergency.

Later in autumn, a stalked, gilled mushroom might appear on some stumps, too.  The jack-o-lantern mushroom is poisonous, so leave that one be.  It has more of a stalk, obvious gills, and grows in clumps, not as shelves as sulphur shelf does.  If in doubt of fungal foolery, or first time collector, ask someone.

Categories: Wisconsin – Jerry Davis

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