Dryad’s Saddle

Polyporus squamosus

dryads_saddle_tops_4-30-13.jpg

Top-view photo of three dryad's saddles, a tan bracket fungus, growing on wood
Curtis E. Young, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org
Edible
Family

Polyporaceae

Description

Large, fleshy, scaly, yellowish tan bracket fungus; large, yellowish white pores; short stalk; smells like watermelon rind. Grows singly or in layers, on living or dead deciduous wood. May–October. Cap circular to fan-shaped; yellowish tan; covered with dark, hairy scales. Pores large, angular; yellowish white. Stalk stublike; blackish at base; off-center, tough. Spore print white. Spores magnified are oblong, elliptical, smooth.

Lookalikes: Other polypores, none of which are known to be poisonous.

Size

Cap width: 2½–12 inches; stalk length: ½–2 inches; stalk width: ½–1½ inches.

Habitat and conservation

Grows singly or in layers, on living or dead deciduous wood. Can reappear for years in the same location, often fruiting more than once a year.

image of Dryad’s Saddle distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Status

Considered a good edible, especially when the mushroom is young. If you find the dryad’s saddle, you can cut off the tender edges, slice them into small pieces, and cook them in butter. Drain and pat dry, then make a sugar syrup and pour evenly over them and refrigerate. The result tastes like watermelon candy.

Life cycle

This species lives as a network of cells (mycelium) within living trees as a parasite, and dead trees as a saprobe, that digests and decomposes the wood. When ready to reproduce, the mycelium develops the bracket that emerges from the log—this is the reproductive structure. In polypores, spores are produced in the pores beneath and are released to begin new mycelia elsewhere.

Human connections

When you are eating a wild mushroom for the first time, even one that is considered a "choice edible," it is a good idea to sample only a small amount at first, since some people are simply allergic to certain chemicals in certain fungi. Make sure they are cooked, too.

Ecosystem connections

This is one of the many fungus species that live on decaying wood. It and other such saprobic fungi play an incredibly important role in breaking down the tough materials wood is made of and returning those nutrients to the soil.