Dryad’s Saddle or Pheasant Back Mushrooms

Dryad's Saddle or Pheasant Back Fungus. Click to enlarge

Those of you who guessed that this was a fungus are correct. The image yesterday was maybe a one inch crop of the top surface of a six inch wide mushroom called Dryad’s Saddle. [click to enlarge on Smugmug]

The older specimens do become tough as leather, and are saddle shaped to support the rump of a flying wood nymph, so be careful to duck. They’ll be out there whizzing around in the air to protect their cache of saddles.

A better and more easily remembered name is “Pheasant’s back” because of the feathery rings of scales that are typical of this often-huge mushroom. It is found on old stumps in our woods, most often elm, where it causes an internal rot. I’m not sure if it is to blame for the widespread death of our elms a few years back.

If you find this mushroom early in the spring, some say it is worth eating. I have not tried it, and if collected, it would likely be only me in this house to sample them.

If nothing else, break off a piece and smell it. No matter what your olfactory IQ happens to be, it will smell familiar. I said “celery”. Others say lemon-cucumber or watermelon rind. At any rate, this will add one more smell-memory to your life list, so go ahead: take a snort.

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About fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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