Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Fey Steeds and Tiny Riders

Dryad's Saddle or Pheasant Back Mushroom 
(Polyporus squamosus or Cerioporus squamosus)
One goes off to the forest in May in search of wildflowers and sometimes encounters these fetching fungi instead.  It's always a treat to discover 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 growths are a species of bracket fungus, and their common name derives from a Greek myth that the fey woodland beings called dryads found them comfortable to sit on and liked to use them on their steeds. Do manes, legs and hooves appear when nobody is watching, then canter off with tiny riders? As for the second common name, patterns on the fungi do resemble the lovely mottled feathering on a pheasant's back.

Tough in their maturity (like me, I suppose), the "saddles" are edible and delicious when they are young and tender, and they smell like watermelons, apparently taste like them too when raw.  I haven't tried it, but one can make a lovely, stiff, creamy, thick paper out of the fibers.  All the specimens I have located so far are old and stringy so 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 unexpectedly on stumps and fallen trees, no two the same.

1 comment:

Mystic Meandering said...

Beam me up Scotty! :DDDD A foot wide! Would this be why some are called "Toad Stools"? - large enough to sit on? :)