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Mushroom season underway, local conservation experts offer tips

Orlan Love/The Gazette

The first morels of the season are waiting to be found. Washington and Henry county conservation directors give helpful tips to help area hunters.
Orlan Love/The Gazette The first morels of the season are waiting to be found. Washington and Henry county conservation directors give helpful tips to help area hunters.
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Lots of rain and rising temperatures have created the perfect conditions for mushroom hunting. Conservation directors in both Washington and Henry counties offer helpful tips and suggestions for a successful season.

Washington County Conservation Director Zach Rozmus said the recent weather forecast has created an ideal environment for mushroom growth.

“The warmer the weather gets, the humidity will help the fungus with growing and obviously if we get some water, too. So with rain in the forecast, that will be good for the actual increase in humidity. That will kind of get that going and that will really kick off the mushroom season,” he said.

Henry County Conservation Director John Pullis said there is no telltale spot for perfect mushroom hunting, but said Mayapples and lilac bushes have been suggested in the past as good places to look. Rozmus agreed and said looking in these locations is the best bet for success.

“There’s been association with certain species, specifically elm trees,” he said. “Elm trees are really susceptible to certain diseases so they often die off and then there’s a lot of funguses that are associated with them and one of them is the morel fungus.”

One thing both directors agree on is that people should always double-check they are allowed on the property before entering. Pullis said although there is a long list of things that cannot be taken from county parks, mushrooms are not one of them.

“As far as state parks and county parks, the morel mushroom is one item you can legally remove from the park,” he said.

As for finding the perfect mushroom, Rozmus said morels are traditionally cylindrical with a porous texture on top. Pullis suggests bringing along a guidebook and always double-checking the mushroom before consuming to make sure it is safe to eat.

“When it comes to fungus, if you don’t know for identification purposes, don’t eat it,” Rozmus agreed. “Funguses always have the possibility of making you really sick and some can be fatal, so I would always encourage people to proceed with caution when it comes to mushrooms, especially wild ones.”

As soon as a mushroom appears above ground is the perfect time to pick it, Rozmus said. He explained that mushrooms develop underground and as soon as they pop up above ground, they will never get any larger. Pullis said one piece of folklore people often hear is to pinch the base of the mushroom in hopes of regenerating a new one for the following year.

“They grow by spores, they don’t grow by a root in the ground from last year,” he explained.

The No. 1 tip both experts offer when it comes to mushroom hunting is to be careful and aware of surroundings. Rozmus suggests always checking for poison ivy in the area and Pullis says to always make sure one has permission to be on the property.

“Hunt at your own risk,” Pullis said.