Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Fey Steeds and Faery Riders

 Dryad's Saddle or Pheasant's back mushroom
 (Polyporus squamosus)
In early summer, one goes off into the forest in search of orchids and sometimes encounters fetching fungi instead.  It's 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 ochery 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 rather like watermelons and apparently taste like them when raw.  I haven't tried doing it, but apparently one can make a lovely stiff creamy thick paper out of the fibers.  Since all the specimens located so far are old and stringy, I haven't tried eating them - I 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.  They are such bright little creatures, and on a dully rainy day, they light up the woods like lighted candles.


Kameshwari said...

Enchanting! I will have to keep my eyes open for such sprites

sarah said...

I always admire people who have the courage to eat wild mushrooms!

Rowan said...

I always enjoy finding the various kinds of fungi though I associate them with Autumn really. These are beautiful and I love their name. If it's a European name they must presumably grow over here as well so I shall look out for them.

Guy said...

Hi Cate

The markings on this mushroom are lovely.