With so much happening in the first half of May in Eliza Howell Park – early wild flowers blooming, migrating birds passing through, breeding birds arriving, toad tadpoles developing – I can forget then to mention that this is usually the best time to find dryad’s saddle. So let me give it its due attention in winter.
Dryad’s saddle is one of several kinds of bracket or shelf fungi found in the park. Bracket fungi are woody, shelf-life mushrooms that grow on the trunks of trees or on logs. This particular shelf fungus often has the shape that accounts for the “saddle” part of its name.
A comment on mushroom identification: My identification of this fungus as “dryad’s saddle” is based on appearance, location, and time of year; it is not based on close examination by an expert or a professional. I strongly recommend that someone interested in collecting it for eating not rely upon pictures alone (mine or someone else’s) for identification, keeping in mind the strong toxicity of some bracket fungi.
Dryad’s saddle grows on dead trees, stumps, and logs and is also found in the wounds of living trees. When on tree trunks, the shelves are usually quite low.
A “dryad” is a tree nymph or tree spirit in Greek mythology. Presumably, a dryad is of a size to fit on this mushroom.
The caps can be from about 3 inches to more than 12 inches wide. I placed a pen on a larger one to provide an indication of the size.
They seem to appear suddenly; I am surprised by seeing them along a walking route that I took only two days before without noting anything. There may sometimes be a single saddle, but more often a small cluster.
Dryad’s saddle functions as a decomposer, an agent of wood decay in dead and injured hardwood trees.
May is the month when many mushroom enthusiasts head to the woods in search of morels and I sometimes get asked if there are morels in Eliza Howell. I have not seen any morels (yet), but dryad’s saddle is, in my mind, a good alternative May find. (All the pictures here were taken in May.)
I will report when/if I see the tree nymphs!