I used to think fungi only appeared in the autumn but I was wrong. I’ve found these three examples of Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus) in the past two weeks at three different locations. It’s an edible fungus so I won’t disclose the locations, as the modern trend of foraging all edible fungi can also put some fungi in danger of being over-collected. I prefer just to take photos and leave the fungi to the critters that undoubtedly enjoy it.
Another common name for this fungus is Pheasant’s back mushroom – as the name implies, the pretty brown colour patterns on the fungus are similar to those seen on the back of a pheasant. The scientific name also refers partly to this patterning (squamosus means scaly), and polyporus means ‘having many pores’ – this is not a gilled mushroom like those you buy at the supermarket; instead, it has a myriad of tiny tubes from which the spores are dispersed.
The name Dryad’s saddle must have come from someone with a good imagination. In Greek mythology, dryads were tree spirits or nymphs, and the shape of some these fungi does indeed resemble a saddle so, perhaps, when we’re not looking, the dryads emerge from their trees for a gallop around the woodland!