Identifying Gray Morels [A Guide]

Have you ever wondered how to identify gray morels? Well, I did at one point, so I started researching and looking for morels. Today, I am sharing my findings with you.

Mushrooms are fascinating. They can be edible, or non-edible, they can make you see God for a week, or even kill you. Mushrooms are a type of fungus, and fungus appears in many different ways, it can be edible like mushrooms, it can rot our food, make the walls turn black, or even make us very uncomfortable (thanks, no thanks Candida). 

Mushrooms and fungi are awesome, terrifying, and everywhere, so, you must understand what you are looking at when you come across a weird mushroom or type of fungus. Can you eat it? Are its spores dangerous? So many questions.

One mushroom we all wish we knew a little better is the Gray Morel, they’re something of a teaser. Despite the dedication of many long-term foragers of morels, it would seem that this mushroom is a myth!

Identifying Gray Morels

How To Identify Gray Morels

Confused? I was too, however, I’m not telling you that morels are not gray, ever. Morels can be gray, and there are often black and yellow morels that look gray in certain stages of their growth. However, this is where everyone gets confused.

Aside from this weird color problem morels have, morels can be tricky mushrooms to spot, but they’re easy to identify. Morels, crest looks a lot like bland, dirty corals. Hence the fun name.

Morels tend to blend in very well with their environments and come up in spring and summer when everything else is also growing. They enjoy growing around the drip line of trees, usually oaks, sycamores, ash, aspen, and elm, and will often appear in the same places year after year.  They also prefer burned areas and disturbed forests too.

They’re easy to identify because their cap looks a lot like a honeycomb or a dark coral. The body is pointed and if you cut one in half you will notice they have a hollow and long oblong inside that is on top of a hollow stem. They also have no ring, gills, or veil. Interestingly they’re also always taller than they are wide. False morels are more squat.

This is how you notice a ‘faker’. Morels are usually brown or black, but some can be yellow or blonde.

But, what about gray morels? Aren’t some gray?

A Very Confusing Mushroom

So, now we know about them, why are they a myth? Well, morels are not a myth, gray morels are. They do not exist, the gray color is just a stage in the morel’s life before the full color comes out. This was uncovered in a data collection in 2012.

A 2012 Morel Data Collection Project

Back in 2012, a data collection project on morels was conducted. The results of this project showed that there was no evidence in DNA form to state that the gray morel is a separate species.

These morels in the east and midwest of the U.S. turned out to simply be M.americana in an immature form with gray pits and yellow-like ridges. In the west of the U.S. foragers referred to another morel as being a gray morel, in this case, it turned out to be M.tomentosa, this morel is a burn-site black morel that looks gray when it is in certain stages of growth.

A Different Species Altogether!

When Europeans occupied the U.S. they named everything based on what they knew, when the morels in the US looked similar to mushrooms they knew, they gave it the same name, however, it turned out it was a different species!

Identifying Gray Morels

Can You Find Morels In The UK?

Morel mushrooms are native to the UK, but they are also uncommon. In the UK they can grow in groups or solitary. They are often in well-drained soil in woodland, copses, and hedgerows.

Are GREY Morels Edible?

Morels, of any kind at all, are edible when cooked they can taste incredible with a delicious taste, however, morels are NEVER to be eaten when raw. Similarly, they should not be eaten in large quantities.

Morels, in general, are edible, although they are somewhat scarce, they can cost a lot of money to be included in dining experiences in some places, this is why they are so popular with foragers.

What Mushroom Looks Like A Morel But Is Poisonous?

There is a darker side to morel mushrooms, however. The gyromitra esculenta, otherwise known as the brain mushroom looks a great deal like the Morel mushroom, almost identical. They are the ‘fake’ morels.

However, they are very poisonous, thanks to the fact that they contain a chemical known as gyromitrin which contains monomethylhydrazine, which is, rather strangely, a component of rocket fuel.

If you chose to eat a ‘brain mushroom’, you could very easily get sick, and in some cases, it can even lead to death.


What Is The Difference Between GREY and Yellow Morels?

Gray and yellow morel mushrooms are the exact same species, they intergrade, meaning that they merge in stages. They are not any different, the gray color is just an aspect of the yellow morels,  they’re the same mushroom at different stages.

How Rare Is A Morel Mushroom?

Morel mushrooms are quite scarce, foraging morels are very popular since morels are so difficult to farm. They are very popular for high-end dining, however, most are found through foraging, which makes them worth a lot of money.

Morel mushrooms can cost $40 per lb when fresh, which shows just how popular and rare they are.

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