Simply put, mycorrhizae are mutualistic relationships between fungi and plant roots. Morels were once thought to be only saprotrophic, meaning the mycelium of the mushroom fed on dead or dying organic material. Mycologists now believe they are mycorrhizal, meaning they get nutrients from the roots of trees.
Are morels mycorrhizal or saprotrophs?
Despite this, morels aren’t believed to be exclusively mycorrhizal. They do seem to feed and be attracted to dead organic matter, mainly dead elm trees, like a true saprotroph. The extent to which method they use to feed is still, like so many concepts in mycology, not fully understood.
Can morels be grown from spores?
After success with less-demanding relatives, such as the common button (Agaricus) mushroom, you might be tempted to try raising the more sophisticated morel. Morel propagation is a two-step process; cultivating mycelia scerotia from spores and fruiting from spawn.
Of course, growing morels can be tricky and nothing is guaranteed. Remember that it can take a few years for a bed to produce mushrooms, so don’t be too disappointed if you don’t see anything the following spring. Now that you understand the needs of these mushrooms a little better, why not try growing morels yourself?
Harvest morels by cutting or pinching them off at ground level. This will reduce the amount of dirt in your harvest. Store up to one week in the refrigerator between moist paper towels. Each morel mushroom contains hundreds of thousands of microscopic spores capable of growing a new mushroom.
Where to plant morel mushrooms?
You can also try planting your bed at the base of an elm tree, ash tree, or in an old apple orchard. The hope is that a mycorrhizal relationship may form, encouraging healthy morel production.
After you strain and remove the mushrooms you’ll have a liquid with millions of spores! This spore liquid can be spread over a prepared bed as described above (sandy soil with peat moss, ashes, and wood chips). It can also be spread in other known morel habitats, such as at the base of dying elm trees.
How do morels spread?
The morel fungus, like other mushrooms, can spread in two different ways: The mushrooms produce spores that are released into the environment when the fruiting heads mature. These spores produce strands of mycelium which grow and spread like roots until they are mature enough to produce mushrooms in new locations.
Morels are known to spring up after forest fires, and ashes add nutrients and mimic a post-forest fire habitat. Mix your morel spawn/spores into the prepared bed according to the instructions.