Clean | Green | Sustainable

Morels, Fire and Non-Timber Forest Product Management

Posted by Matthew Koehler on April 23, 2009

The other day, I found my first morel mushroom of the year. I wish I could say the morels were found after scouring the banks of a nearby creek or following an epic journey deep into the mountains. But, nope, not these morels. I found them growing in the woodchips of a native landscaping job I did for a neighbor last fall. Go figure!

It’s been unseasonably warm the past five days in Missoula and apparently that warm weather, combined with some water I recently dumped on native flowers and plants, (to give them an extra boast this spring) was too good a situation for the morels to pass up. So they fruited and I picked them and gave them to the neighbor to try. I told her to put them in a pan with some butter and salt and see what happens. I haven’t gotten a report, but I guarantee the morels didn’t taste bad…they never do.

Later that morning, I called my good friend Larry Evans, who’s been called the “Indiana Jones of Mushroom Hunting.” Larry stars in a new Ronn Mann film titled, Know Your Mushrooms and he was also recently featured in the Missoula Independent.

Larry was excited about the news of my morel find and over the phone he even boldly proclaimed, “Matty Dread, you’ve found the first morels of the year! The Frenchman has been searching his place for weeks and he hasn’t found anything. Histrocially, April 21 isn’t the earliest first morel I’ve seen in Western Montana, but it’s on the early side.” Well, I doubt it really was the first morel of the year, but it was a nice find nonetheless, and it’s always great to see just how excited Larry gets over fungi!

All of this is really just a round about way to bring us to the real reason for this post. The Spring issue of Fungi Magazine, a great resource for amateur and profession mushroom enthusiasts, mycophiles and mycologists, includes an article from Larry about morels, fire and non-timber forest products. In the article Larry makes a solid case that forests are not destroyed or lifeless following a wildfire, as we often hear portrayed in the media. In fact, Larry points out that “Fungi are no strangers to fire. Of about 430 species of Ascomycetes in the Pacific Northwest, over 100 species require a forest fire to produce fruiting bodies.”

It’s an interesting article and worth a read. Hopefully it will inspire you to take a closer look into what’s happening on the forest floor near you!

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