Fortunately for morel lovers, morels grow in almost every state of the USA and province of Canada, and in part of Mexico. They officially are found in all of the USA except for Arizona, Nevada & New Mexico, Florida & Georgia, Alaska and Hawaii and the provinces of Saskatchewan and Newfoundland-Labrador. Yet, at least three varieties are common in Manitoba, two in Saskatchewan, one found in northern Georgia, and one in the eastern regions of Alaska.
Morels are identified as at least 16 separate family members, from the common yellow morel and black morel to the half-free and western blond morel. While each is specific to a region, many of the taxons identified are almost indistinguishable from the common yellow or black morel.
Generally, morels are found where winter temperatures reach near or below freezing on a sustainable basis, where deciduous forests allow filtered light during the late spring season, where daytime temperatures are not above 80F during the fruiting season, and where the spider-like rooting networks are able to penetrate and spread in the soil substrate.
For these reasons, hot, arid regions do not host morels. Similarly, deep, dark evergreen forests are inhospitable hosts. However, some varieties of mushrooms do grow beneath evergreens. At the same time, sandy, dry soils generally are not welcoming hosts. But morels will grow in these soils where they adjoin more beneficial soil substrates. Thus, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, and other low-population states produce morels.
Morels need a looser substrate in which to spread their root-like filaments. Theoretically, then, mountainous regions would not be suitable terrain. Yet, morels are common in the Pacific Northwest, where leafy mulch provides the needed soil conditions, and spring light, moisture and warmth is abundant.
Half-free morels seem to deviate from their morel cousins’ preferred sites, growing well in the mossy shoulders of small creeks and drainage ditches. These morels are found from the Dakotas to the maritime states and provinces, from Tennessee to Manitoba, and along the Pacific states.
The classic black morel grows abundantly in the Midwest, along the Pacific Northwest, Colorado & New Mexico, and even in Mississippi.
The classic yellow is even more wide-ranging, from the west, throughout Manitoba and central Canada, central and south central USA, and even the eastern seaboard states, while its sister, the Western Blond, is commonly found in Wyoming, Oregon and Washington.
Even in the Yukon and eastern Alaska, a unique morel, the fuzzy footed morel, can be found in abundance, venturing into British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Colorado.
All varieties are distinctively cone-shaped, and equally delicious. All are welcome spring snacks across all of North America, and can be found with a little determination, and lots of luck.