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May mushrooms: A mighty meal

May 28, 2011

MOREL MUSHROOMS are one of Iowa forest's sweet treats during the month of May. Lots of people look for them in the same places that have been good for production in years past. However, this little fungi may or may not be found near dead elm trees. When you ask a "shroomer" where they found that grocery bag full of morels, the likely answer may as well be the South Pole. Keeping a mushroom area secret is the secret.

When someone does find a big batch of morels, they will say it was a good year. Yet the same weather phenomenon that produced for one person will be used as an excuse by another person why they did not find any. Only Mother Nature really has her hand in the right place to allow these fungi to pop out of the soil in profusion one year and hardly at all the next.

Mushroom spores are microscopic. When they fall on the right combination of moist soil, or old leaf litter, the spores will grow by sending out underground parts called mycelium. These in turn make hyphae, elongated cellular structures. Other hyphae in the area are needed to grow the form of mushroom we may see. The process is mostly a mystery, enough so that people trying to raise morels mushroom have had little success. What they do get to grow seems to get stuck in 'resting stage' called sclerotium whereby the growth just hangs out but does not develop. In nature this is the mechanism by which fungi survive drought cycles humans cannot anticipate.

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A plate full of morel mushrooms was the result of one short trip through one of this author’s deer hunting areas. Although I wasn’t really looking for the tasty morel, it was mostly by accident that I spotted these little delicacies on a trail. Well, I just had to stop and ‘smell the roses’ so to speak. My cap turned into a morel carrying bag. Let’s just say that supper that night was extra special. Yum!


This is a long weekend for many people. Families will be gathering for picnics and parties. First, take the time to remember and salute the military of this great nation. MEMORIAL DAY is a time to cherish the freedoms we enjoy that were hard won by those that gave some and some that gave all.


Warming waters in area streams, ponds and lakes has made the fish active. When that happens, it can be assured that fishermen, fisherwomen, and fisherkids will try to find the fish and get them to bite. May is the time of year to catch bluegills, crappie, walleye, channel catfish or even the spunky bullhead. Panfish such as crappie or bluegill will be close to shore, probably on a nest. Use small hooks and light tackle for these slab fishes. If there is anytime to take a kid fishing, May is the month. Go for it. Just do it. Enjoy the day. Watch the big smiles on a kids face when a big bluegill takes the jig. Do not forget the camera.

The DNR has a new first fish program. It will recognize anyone who catches their first fish with a certificate suitable for framing. Fishing is a high quality family-friendly activity. To get an application for a FIRST FISH, look in the back of the fishing regulation booklet, page 41. Fill out the required information and send it along with a good photo to the Iowa DNR First Fish Program, 57744 Lewis Rd, Lewis, IA 51544. If you desire, you can email for the entry. Contact


Boating picks up big time on this traditional start of the summer season. Owner operators need to know the laws and other common sense things to watch for.Safety tops the list. If the boat is big enough to require a fire extinguisher, make sure it is in working order. Lights that work will be needed if navigating after sunset. Personal Floatation Devices (PFD's) are required too. Every year someone who thought they didn't need to wear a PFD paid the price and now for sure they don't need it inside a casket. Registration of the watercraft must be up to date, just like an automobile title, license and registration. There are about 247,000 registered boats in Iowa.

On July 1, the law will change for boaters who have had a beer or two or more. Right now the legal limit is 0.10. Five weeks from now, the limit will go down to 0.8. This rule is consistent with motor vehicle law and is intended to reduce vessel accidents, injuries and fatalities from impaired boat operators. In 2010, there were five fatalities with boats, three of which were alcohol related. The trend in past years is about the same, percentage wise, for alcohol being a huge factor in human bad judgment. Only in 2008 for example were there no fatalities from boating accidents.


Here are a few up and coming events that are being hosted by Marshall County Conservation:

Story Hour June 1 - Preschoolers and their adult(s) are invited to listen to fun nature stories, take a walk and explore nature's wonders. Join us on the first and third Wednesdays each month.

Brown Bag Brunch Trip to the High Trestle Trail will be held June 10 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bring your lunch or a snack and experience one of the largest trail bridges in the world located between Madrid and Slater. We will meet to car pool from the Grimes Farm and pre-registration is requires by June 8. Pre-register by contacting Marshall County Conservation at 641-752-5490.

Registration for June Hunter Safety Course is open on line. Classes are June 16 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and June 18 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Izaak Walton League grounds located 1 mile south of Iowa Ave on S 12th/Smith Ave. Completion of a hunter safety course is required for anyone who wishes to buy a hunting license born after Jan. 1, 1972. Must be 12 or older. Register for this free 10-hour class at


"Man, despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments, owes his existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains." Anonymous.


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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