Mushroom Hunting: Observations from Wisconsin

By Tom Nauman

I received an email from Jason Edge in Southwest Wisconsin. Jason and his brother, Jesse, and friend, Brett, are very serious Morel Maniacs. Like us, they think about morels year 'round as you will note from the letter. It includes an interesting observation of the morel/dead elm relationship.

"This is Jason Edge from Southwest Wisconsin. I had just finished reading your information column on fall morels in Illinois. You had me very excited but skeptical before I started to read your story. Very interesting though. I'll tell ya what I think about fall morels in the Midwest. During the fall here in Southwest Wisconsin I get some time to bow hunt for deer. Although morels are always on my mind I am usually looking for dead elm trees and not deer. When I am walking to my tree stand I always take a glance in areas which usually produce morels. This is probably instinct mixed with a little curiosity because one never knows. Like you said I would have to see it to believe it.

Here's a little information I have learned from watching elm trees year 'round. I have always believed elm trees had to be dead for a year before they would produce. All the information I have read on morels also states this. I have a great job in which enables me to observe this. Our family runs a custom round baling business which enables me to do field work all over our county. We round bale three crops of hay so I get to return to the same fields three times during the summer. All around these hay fields usually are wooded areas.

We also do custom combining of corn and soy beans. So I get to watch the woods during the fall as well. The leaves on an elm tree will start to turn a brownish color, get crispy, and then fall off. It's odd to note that most trees don't die all at once usually half at a time. Also it takes a minimum of six months for a tree to die. During our picking season we will find trees which are half dead/half alive. These trees never produce a morel. The tree must be completely dead.

On June 1st of 1999 I found an elm tree with mostly brown leaves on it but it still had some green ones too. Each week some of the brown leaves were blown off and some of the green leaves were beginning to turn brown. By August 1st. the tree had finally lost all of it's leaves. I had made note of this to see if the tree would produce in May of 2000. Come May 1st, the tree had been dead for nine months and had produced morels! This is interesting because now I think of it like a human, nine months for a baby and nine months for a shroom tree to produce! This year I have noted a few trees which died in September. If they produce this May it will be down to eight months."

I thank Jason for sharing his thoughts. I've noticed that elms with even the slightest bit of foliage on them during the morel season don't produce any mushrooms. But, they are prime suspects for the following year. I have my own system for determining how long an elm has beendead. I'll try to describe it in the next column. Jason has posted pictures of the dead elm on his website at You can find the rest of his website and a lot of good information beginning at If you want to email him, he's at

Don't forget the special offer from Morel Mania: Buy two or more of their Mushroom Field Guides before April 1, 2001 and deduct 20% from the total price. This is only being offered through Adventure Sports Outdoors and on our website. Call or write us at the address below to receive a free catalog. Or, visit us at the Decatur (Illinois) Fishing Expo on February 2, 3, & 4, the Henry (Illinois) Decoy Show on February 11, or the Springfield (Illinois) All Sport & Boat Show on February 23, 24, & 25th.

Remember, whenever you want to try eating a mushroom you're not familiar with, check it in at least two field guides. If they say it's edible, try just a nibble, wait 24 hours, and if there are no ill effects then consume larger amounts. All past articles are available Please feel free to contact us with questions or comments. Especially if you have ideas or suggestions for future columns: Tom and Vicky Nauman, Morel Mania, RR1 - Box 42, Magnolia, IL 61336, Phone 309-364-3319, Fax 309-364-2960,