It’s the time of year for morel mushrooms to appear but they can be hard to find. They are significantly less common in the north-east of England than in some southern counties and they are more numerous in some years than others. It was pleasing, therefore, to hear a report of some interesting mushrooms appearing amongst some bark mulch in the garden of a house at Stanley.
When a couple of us investigated, we found two species emerging from amongst the wood chips. We saw several black morels, which we decided were Morchella elata, but we have since been informed that this name is out of date and they should now be called Morchella importuna. One of the morels was different from the others and we decided that this was the true or common morel, M esculenta, but the best information that we have at the moment is that this is of the same species as the others. I understand that the exact number of species of morel has not been agreed by all and the relationships between the different morels are being studied using DNA analysis. Colour can’t be relied upon for identification.
Morels are sought after by mushroom enthusiasts because they are considered to be delicacies. They are picked in many countries and they are often dried and stored to be eaten later. Having said this, there are some very toxic lookalikes and you must be warned against trying to identify any edible fungi by using information from an article such as this. Always get an expert to identify anything that you intend to eat.