Morel mushrooms have been intertwined with Bill’s and my life at Timberhill ever since we first saw them here in 1985. Our realtor was showing us land along the Weldon River that the owner, Mike, was anxious to sell because the interest rates had become so high. Bill, the realtor, Mike and I were crammed into the front seat of the Mike’s pickup. After viewing his property along the Weldon River he drove us uphill to a gate that opened into a ridge top meadow. From there the trail took us past a pond in the sunlit wildflower meadow. Surrounding the meadow branches of mature oak trees reached out over the top of native grasses. I knew that this was the land that Bill and I had been looking for.
Careful not to reveal my excitement, I nudged Bill and casually asked the realtor, “So who owns this property?”
“Oh, this is Doyle’s. He lives across the road,” she replied.
We thanked Mike and the realtor, then drove immediately to the Butcher house. There was no answer to our knock on the kitchen door. We looked around the outbuildings for Doyle. Then we heard a “Hello?” from across the road. We turned around and saw Doyle and his wife walking toward us. They carried a paper grocery sack overflowing with morels. I’d never seen so many specimens. Three months later we purchased 75 acres across the road from Doyle.
The next spring I asked Doyle to show me where to find the morels on the land we’d purchased from him. “Oh, those weren’t on my land. They were on Mike’s property.” That was our next land purchase – the 45 acres with morels from Mike.
West of our original land purchase was a 40 acre piece with high quality prairie remnants. Although much of it was heavily overgrown with eastern red cedar I saw some very conservative plants such as low nut rush, Scleria verticillata, there. Water bubbled from freshwater natural springs. Between the prairie remnants and springs we couldn’t resist and purchased another 40 acres in 2004 to bring our total to 200 acres. That same year we implemented prescribed burns and we cleared all the trees except elms from this unit which we named West Creek. It was under a dead elm in one of the West Creek prairie remnants that we found the first morel of 2020.
We never know where the first morels will fruit since we have found morels in each of the Timberhill units. Will they be under silver maple and elms trees east of the house along Brush Creek? Or under the cottonwoods along the West 40 bottom trail? Last year they were most abundant in the Hickory Grove and prairie border west of the house. We have learned to begin looking seriously when the first asparagus spears sprout in the vegetable garden. That was on April 8 this year and sure enough we found our first morel of the season sprouting from a clump of goldenrod leaves under a dead elm in West Creek the same day. The next day we found four more. To my surprise all the specimens were fruiting from clumps of goldenrod leaves. I’d never seen that before.
They will become more plentiful after the mayapple leaves are fully open. That’s when we drop everything and devote each day to the two-to -three week morel harvest.