Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Fey Steeds and Dryad 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 a European mythological tradition which held that the fey woodland beings called dryads found the growths comfortable and liked to ride them.  Do the saddles sprout legs and hooves, then canter off with their tiny riders when nobody is looking?  As for their second name, patterns on the fungi do resemble the lovely 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 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 - 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.


Tabor said...

Great descriptions and they are exotic and full of many uses it seems. We move away from this connection with nature and should remember these fungi.

christinalfrutiger said...

The fungus among us! :) These are beautiful with their feather like coloring! Maybe we should rename them pheasant mushrooms! Or pancake mushrooms! :) Do you suppose those little fairy creatures of the forest also used them much like an umbrella when it rains? Those dry fronds, leaves? in the background on the stump look like cedar. They blend quite well with the pheasant mushrooms!