May 3, 2021
Good afternoon team.
This week’s mushroom is Cerioporus squamosus, commonly known as the dryad’s saddle or pheasant’s back. Dryad’s saddle is my favorite common name for any mushroom featured yet and it refers to Greek mythological tree nymphs, dryads, riding this mushroom like a cowboy would ride their horse. The pheasant’s back moniker originates from the visual similarity in the caps of young mushrooms to the back of a female common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus). Alex and Phil notified me of the specimens attached growing in the North Woods on 4/27/2021.
C. Squamosus fruits in the spring and is found in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. It occasionally fruits in the autumn, and its gregarious caps can be found year-round (attached is a picture of an old saddle I found this winter). It is saprobic – consumes dead organic material – on hardwoods (specifically elm, silver maple, box elder, and quaking aspen). Some websites say it is parasitic, but I now hesitate to substantiate that claim with lesser researched fungi. If it is growing out of dead wood on a tree it could’ve killed the tree cells itself, sure, or it could be feeding off a previous injury and even helping the tree compartmentalize the wound. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and hard to keep an open mind – both in life and ecology.
C. Squamosus is edible when it’s young. It has a firm texture, a mealy/nutty flavor, and smells like watermelon rind. It is not a “choice” edible for those reasons, but folks have found other uses for it as well. This mushroom can be used to make paper through the same process in which trees are pulped into paper. Fungi have myriad practical applications that could let us live on the planet more sustainably and it seems like society is just starting to come around to this realization.
Have a delightful week,