Of all the signs of spring, the morel mushroom is arguably the most ephemeral and enigmatic. Perhaps this is why morel mania descends for a week or two each spring, as people disappear into the woods, hoping to emerge with hats, caps, and sacks full of the elusive mushrooms.

I’ve never found any morels in the woods around my house, but that’s mostly due to lack of time for searching. This year I had more time, and so each day for almost a week, I tramped through the woods, eyes scanning the forest floor for the distinctive Christmas tree shape of a dull tan morel poking up through last year’s maple and oak leaves.

As I scanned the ground, I also scanned my brain for morel lore. Loamy moist soil, but not too wet. Disturbed ground is best—flooded areas or burn sites. Look on the south slope of hills. Or is it the north? Wait until the nighttime temperatures are in the 50s and the days in the 60s. Today it’s almost 80—is that too hot?