Mushrooming at Wyalusing State Park

Spring showers not only bring flowers to Wyalusing State Park but, the spring weather also brings out "morellers" or "shrumers".

"Shrumers" walk the trails with eyes locked on the forest floor. In hand, is a stick used to move leaves away from dead stumps. Often the stick carries magical powers that, when activated, guides the owner to the location of the morel mushroom.

If a shrumer is lucky enough to find a dead elm tree a feeding frenzy ensues. The morel spore underneath the bark falls on the ground, winter passes and then if spring conditions including rain, temperature and soil are just right, morels can be found. Serious shrumers carry a soil thermometer.

The exact science of conditions conducive to morel growth is so elusive
that the mushrooms could not be grown commercially with any consistency until recently, despite market demand driving prices as high as $45 to $50 per pound found at one local fish market in prairie du Chien, WI. Wisconsin State parks allow harvesting of morel mushrooms for individual consumption. Morels can not be harvested for sale.

Shrumers are known to describe a successful hunt in general terms. Very few will reveal the secret hideout of morels or methods used to hunt them. One recent visitor describes the perfect shruming time, "When wild plum trees start blooming and when lilac flowers are starting to die I start searching for morels on south facing hillsides first. Morels seem to come all at once, and then that’s it."

In many ways, the benefits found in a search for the morel mushroom in April and May is like any other “hunt”; anticipation of being able to participate again following long months of inactivity; the challenge of knowing where to locate the morel with the very real chance of failure regardless of that knowledge, and if the hunt is successful, the guarantee of sitting down to enjoy the fruit of the harvest. A feast of morels created with family recipes and frequent retelling of the ever expanding hunt story frequently follows each feast. Soon it is often difficult to discern truth from the made up part.

Some mushrooms are deadly or extremely hazardous when consumed; see List of deadly fungi. Others, while not deadly, can nevertheless cause permanent organ damage. The literature strongly advises that you:*
  • Only eat mushrooms you have positively identified yourself.
  • Identify mushrooms a second time during preparation and cook them properly (only a few species can be eaten raw)
  • Don't combine mushrooms types.
  • Inform yourself about deadly mushrooms that are look-alikes of edible ones. "Deadly twins" differ regionally, so take into account regional variation.
  • Don't gather mushrooms that are difficult to identify, unless you have expert knowledge. This applies especially to the mushrooms of the genus Amanita or Cortinarius and "little brown mushrooms."
  • Consume only a small amount the first time you try a certain species. People react differently to different mushrooms, and all mushroom species cause adverse reaction in a few individuals, even the common champignon.[1]