The Morel Of The Story: Searching For Fungi In The Parks

March 31, 2016 by A Parks Pal

Searching for fungi in the parks is like going on a big scavenger hunt -- one that changes with each new season. Last fall, author of the blog Foto-Foraging, Josh Doty, gave us this great guide on finding fungi in the parks in fall. He's back this season with a whole new list of fungi to keep an eye out for on your next trip to the parks.

Springtime fungi in Western Pennsylvania begin to appear when the temperatures at night are consistently between 40 - 60 degrees and the daytime temperatures are between 60 - 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Colder temperatures and lack of rain will slow their growth. Read on for a list of some of the springtime fungi that you can spot in the parks.

morels - Josh DotyMorels

Morels are a favorite find for chefs. They're tough to spot and their growing season does not last long. The black morels usually appear first in the season; all have a distinct honeycomb cap like the one shown here. This year I will look for black morels near shagbark hickory trees and yellow morels near apple and elm trees. 

Find more information about morels here. 


Pheasant's Back - Josh DotyDryad’s Saddle or Pheasant’s Back

Scientific name: Polyporus squamosus

The Polyporus squamosus is very common during the spring months. It's easy to see as they first appear before all of the other plants throughout the woods have started to grow. If you break one, you will notice that it smells like watermellon rind (which they don't taste like, however!)

Find more information about pheasant's back here.

Scarlet Elf Cup - Josh DotyScarlet Elf Cup

Scientific name: Sarcoscypha austriaca

This is the eastern North America variety of the Sarcoscypha. It is both easy and hard to find -- easy because it is the only thing with color in the spring forest, difficult because it is usually buried under the leaf litter from the fall season.  These fungi are saprobes, meaning they subsist on dead or decaying organic matter.

Find more information about scarlet elf cups here. 

Devil's Urn. Photo by Josh Doty

Devil's Urn

Scientific name: Urnula craterium

This springtime cup fungus is also a challenge to find because its color hides it well in the mix of the brown and black colors of the post-winter woods. It can be found growing by itself or in clusters. This fungi is also saprobic; I found this one attached to a branch that had come to rest in a field of green grass, making it easy to spot.

Find out more about devil's urn here

Entoloma vernum - Photo by Josh DotyMica Cups

Scientific name: Coprinellus micaceus

Some say that these mushrooms first appear a week or so before morels. I have also heard that you can often find morels growing near mica cups. I have found these at the base of rotting stumps frequently throughout the month of April and May.

Find more information about mica cups here. 

Entoloma vernum - Photo by Josh DotyEntoloma Vernum

If you do a spore print of these early spring mushrooms, you will learn that they have pink spores, one of the identifying characteristics of the Entoloma. The name “vernum” comes from the phrase “Tempus vernum,” meaning spring time. These mushrooms are easy to spot because they appear before most of the plants start growing in the woods.

Learn more about entoloma vernum here. 

All photos in this blog courtesy of Josh Doty. Want to learn more about fungus underfoot (as well as the fauna, flora, and forests) in our region? Check out Josh Doty's blog here!