Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Fey Steeds and Spirit Riders

Dryad's Saddle or Pheasant Back Mushroom 
(Polyporus squamosus or Cerioporus squamosus)
One goes into the woods in May in search of wildflowers and occasionally encounters these fetching fungi along the way instead.  It's always a treat to discover the 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 an ancient Greek belief that the tree spirits known as dryads found them comfortable and liked to use them as saddles. Do manes, legs, tails 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 delicious when young and tender, and they smell like watermelons, apparently taste like them too. I haven't tried it, but one can make a lovely, stiff, creamy, thick paper out of their fibers.  All the saddles 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 a federation starship), their vivid earthy hues, and the fact that they show up unexpectedly on stumps and fallen trees, no two the same.

2 comments:

Barbara R. said...

But what do the dyrads put the saddles on to ride? Sea horses are a bit far from home, so maybe some snap-dragons turn into steads for them...just not sure...

Michele said...

These are beautiful! My son-in-law has started growing & harvesting his own mushrooms, apparently it's a "thing" now? So I'm watching and learning, fascinating!