High-elevation gray morels and other Morchella species harvested as non-timber forest products in Idaho and MontanaHigh-elevation gray morels and other Morchella species harvested as non-timber forest products in Idaho and Montana
We investigated post-fire morels (Morchella
species), especially the “gray” morels of Idaho and Montana, by collecting ecological and genetic data and by interviewing commercial mushroom harvesters and buyers. Gray morels fruited exclusively in high-elevation Picea/Abies forests that had burned the preceding summer, predominantly in zones of moderate fire intensity as indicated by a layer of dead conifer needles on top of the fire ash. Genetic analysis revealed five varieties of morels among our specimens. Mushroom harvesters confirmed that gray morels are economically crucial to their business because they are typically large, heavy, and durable. Harvesters and buyers described the varieties of morels they encountered differently than mycologists did, but cooperative research could facilitate mutual understanding of morel diversity and benefit everyone involved.