April is often a good month for morels in Colorado. There are many different species of morels, and likely many more yet unidentified. The family Morchellaceae includes the genus Morchella, the verpas (genus Verpa), and cup fungi (genus Disciotis). Remember that some morel look- alikes (including common varieties found in Colorado) can be extremely poisonous, so take the time to correctly identify. A key to Verpas and True Morels can be found here: Michael Kuo’ s website, Mushroom Expert, at http://www.mushroomexpert.com/morchellaceae.html. This key contains over a dozen varieties of true morels. To set them apart from the Verpa, the true morel has a cap more or less fully attached at the stem, is essentially hollow, and the interior lacks wispy fibers. The Verpa cap is only attached at the very top, and contains wispy fibers on the interior.
There are other lookalikes to watch out for. The Gyromitras contain several toxic lookalikes: G. esculentalooks brain-like, and can be 4 in. high and 6 in. wide. It contains the toxic compound monomethylhydrazine (MMH), which is also used as rocket fuel. G. infula, the elfin saddle has a brown or reddish cap which is saddle or heart-shaped and white stem. The G. gigas, a/k/a “snow morel” or “calf brain,” has a tawny-colored, brain-like cap, and the stem is not hollow. These should all be considered toxic.
A good rule of thumb for any forager is to always check the key. Even if you think you have been foraging for so long you are not susceptible to mistakes, it never hurts to double check – and it can really hurt not to.