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It's morel mushroom season! When, where to hunt the prized fungi

Morel mushrooms will likely become widespread through the end of April as a warmer, wet pattern takes hold along the Iowa-Illinois border.

MOLINE, Illinois — The hunt will soon be on for the popular morel mushroom! These often sought-after mushrooms require some fairly picky growing conditions that are not easy to duplicate, which is what has turned the hunt for them into a sport that many enjoy today!

While their appearance may not look very appetizing, they are considered a delicacy. Their flexibility is quite high in the culinary world, being used in wine sauces, pasta, and even soup! Farmers markets across the country are often filled with these mushrooms, and they often come with a premium price attached.

What conditions are needed to see a morel mushroom explosion in the Quad Cities?

We need three things: 

  1. A several-day stretch of air temperatures during the day near 60 degrees. 
  2. Soil temperatures held steady in the 45- to 50-degree range.
  3. Plenty of moisture. 
Credit: Illinois State Water Survey
Soil temperatures provided by the Illinois State Water Survey show some gradual warming taking place.

It's no secret that we have had quite a bit of trouble lately sustaining any kind of warmth here in the Quad Cities. We've had several blasts of cooler air that have brought widespread 40s and 50s for several days. Not to mention, temperatures have often dropped below freezing at night. This is likely leading to the delayed start of mushroom sightings here locally. In years past, we've seen them as early as late March.

The forecast for the last two weeks of April holds more promise for ideal growing conditions, including several days in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Even a day in the 80s is likely for April 23. This will help boost soil temperatures to even warmer levels, spurring more mushroom growth in the weeks ahead. Those temperatures are currently holding in the 45- to 50-degree range, which is ideal. 

Credit: Jake Levi Jackson
Tiny morel mushroom just right of the quarter placed for size.

The Quad Cities has also been in the midst of a moderate drought that continues to show big signs of improvement. A more wet and active pattern April 20-25 will help improve conditions further for morel sightings. 

Credit: thegreatmorel.com
Where morel mushrooms have been spotted as of 4/24/2022

According to The Great Morel, sightings of morel mushrooms are already occurring just south of the Quad Cities in parts of central and southern Illinois. As temperatures continue to warm, more sightings to the north and in the Quad Cities region are likely.

Helpful tips for finding morels

Forest areas that are open to the public offer a great environment for mushrooms. Here are some tips for hunting:

  • Watch for a sloped hill: The side of a hill that gets more sunshine will be where morels start to develop first, especially on south-facing slopes. 
  • Watch for certain types of trees: Morels can grow on trees, especially elm, ash, poplar, and apple trees. They have even been found under pine trees!
  • Look for worn ground: Burn sites and areas that have been flooded are known to produce quite a population.
  • Watch for ticks: You'll be in the woods after all. Dress appropriately and use a tick repellent. 

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