This beautiful bracket mushroom’s scientific name is Polyporus squamosus. It’s common name is Dryad’s Saddle. These polyporus fungus can either grow on fallen logs and tree stumps in a saprophytic relationship, or may be found as a parasitic growth on hardwood trees such as maple and elm. They have widespread distribution including being found in North America, Australia, Asia, and Europe. Dryad’s saddle can range in size from 4 to 24” and can get to almost 2” thick.(1)
Dryad’s Saddle is an edible mushroom that is best eaten when young and tender. At this point they can be roasted or sautéed. Mature specimens that still have white flesh can be collected, dried and powdered or broken into very small pieces for use in soups or stews. “The best rule to follow is to use your foraging knife and if you find that it is tough to remove it, then leave it.” (2) No matter what the stage of growth, they must be cooked before consumed.
The word “dryad” in dryad’s saddle refers to a being from Greek mythology. A dryad is a tree nymph or tree spirit. In early Greece, the dryads were specifically tied to oak trees, but have since expanded to mean any human-tree hybrid. It is said that dryads only live as long as the tree they are connected to.(3)(4)
The word “saddle” in dryad’s saddle is because the mushrooms resemble a horse’s saddle. It is then thought that this saddle would be about the right size of a tree nymph. This does, of course, lead to a bigger question about what are the dryads riding? Are there miniature tree nymph horses or do they ride other woodland creatures like raccoons? If anyone has the answer to this I would love to know.