Morel mushrooms are a highly coveted type of edible fungus that grow in the springtime across many parts of North America.
Virginia offers excellent morel hunting grounds for those willing to search forests, parks, and private land. By looking in the right habitats during peak season, a forager can discover these delicious wild mushrooms.
Here are some of the best places in Virginia to find morels and tips for a successful harvest.
George Washington and Jefferson National Forest
The George Washington and Jefferson National Forest offers approximately 1.8 million acres of public land in Virginia that harbors morel mushrooms in the spring.
Morels can be found in wooded areas, especially where tulip poplar, ash, elm, and old apple trees grow. Burn sites from controlled forest fires will produce morels for up to 5 years after the burn.
Obtain a free permit and follow rules about only harvesting a personal limit.
State Wildlife Management Areas
Virginia has many state wildlife management areas that are open to public hunting and foraging. Morels can thrive in the undisturbed forests found in wildlife areas.
Check regulations and obtain proper permits from the Department of Wildlife Resources. Popular spots include Bull Run Mountains, Dick Cross, and Horsepen Lake.
Focus efforts near dead elm, ash, and apple trees.
The areas surrounding Blacksburg in southwest Virginia are prime morel territory. Morels can be found in hardwood forests or areas with tulip poplar, ash, and poplar trees.
Abandoned apple orchards are fruitful hunting grounds.
Ask permission before foraging on private land. Joining local mushroom clubs can help locate the best current spots.
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park’s nearly 200,000 acres contain excellent morel habitat, especially where there are Tulip poplar trees. Obtain a permit and follow the rules about harvesting limits.
Look in wooded areas bordering creeks and rivers.
Be aware of wildlife like bears. Connect with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club for guided foraging hikes.
Groves of Tulip Poplar Trees
Groves of tulip poplar trees provide ideal conditions for morels with shade and rich soil. Other poplar tree varieties like quaking aspen may also indicate morels.
Walk slowly and methodically, keeping an eye out right at the base of trees.
Obtain permission before entering private land with poplar groves.
Dead Elm, Ash, and Apple Trees
Search around dead or dying elm, ash, and apple trees, as morels thrive in the particular soil conditions these trees create.
Elm trees damaged by Dutch elm disease and unused apple orchards surrounded by forests offer likely morel habitat.
Focus on searching a 20 foot radius around each dead tree.
By using these tips and focusing efforts in known morel hotspots, mushroom hunters can have a successful spring foraging season in Virginia.
Make sure to harvest sustainably and respect wildlife habitats while searching. With luck and persistence, you may discover a bountiful patch of delicious morels.
[Related Post: 10 Common Mushrooms In Virginia]