May 19, 2013

Fey Steeds and Tiny Riders

Dryad's Saddle or Pheasant's Back Mushroom
(Polyporus squamosus)
One goes off to the forest in May in search of early orchids and encounters these fetching fungi instead.  It's always a treat to find such arty structures, and they pop out of the woodwork around the same time as morels do, sometimes growing quite large - well over a foot across.  This one was growing out of an elm stump along the trail into the deep woods, and it could be seen from quite a distance because of its tawny ochre coloring.

The mushrooms are a species of bracket fungus, and their common name derives from European mythological tradition which held that the fey woodland beings called dryads found the growths comfortable and liked to ride them.  Do the saddles develop legs and canter off with their tiny riders when nobody is looking?  As for the second name, they do look rather like the mottled feathering on a pheasant's back.

Tough in their maturity (rather like me, I suppose), the "saddles" are deliciously edible when young and tender, and they smell somewhat like watermelons, apparently taste like them too when raw.  I haven't done it, but apparently one can make a lovely stiff creamy thick paper out of the fibres.  Since all the specimens I have located so far are old and stringy, I haven't tried eating them - simply like them for their shape (kind of like the starship Enterprise), their vivid earthy hues, and the fact that they show up like technicolor balloons on stumps and among fallen trees.

2 comments:

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Many of these creations in my woods but would never eat :)
Soon a couple will be stopping by to hunt morrels - they have offered some of their find
but hesitant to cook...

Guy said...

Hi Cate

I love the patterning you captured here.

Guy