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Dryad's Saddle or Pheasant's-back Polypore (Polyporus squamosus)
Photo Copyright 2000 by David W. Fischer.
If you find these in whole or in part (the growing outer edge is always the most tender part)
when they're still young and tender, they have a nice flavor. Cook them slowly and moistly in a
covered pan over low heat with onions, garlic, fresh-ground black pepper, or whatever you prefer.
Always follow these vital safety rules: ten.htm!
It is a very distinctive species: the combination of its distinctly scaly top, the little pores
on the undersurface and the springtime growth habit (in clusters on elm stumps and logs) make it
readily identifiable. Also, the odor when fresh is reminiscent of watermelon rind.
Ecologically, this is a very interesting mushroom. In 1953, SUNY ESF's Dr. Josiah Lowe (RIP, Joe!)
finished the encyclopedic Polyporaceae of the United States, Alaska, and Canada. Senior author
Lee Oras Overholts had died in 1946. In the book's pages, this mushroom was described as occasional or
infrequent, growing on living trees. In such a situation, this species is a parasite, attacking the heartwood
of various deciduous trees, especially maples, most often where branches have been sawed or broken off at the trunk.
Since Dutch elm disease became epidemic and began ravaging the American elm in the 1960s,
Dryad's Saddle has become common because it decomposes the lignin of dead elm, but only
very rarely "eats" other kinds of trees after they've died.
So in the 1950s Josiah Lowe correctly pronounced P. squamosus as "rare" on stumps or logs—
but since then, Dryad's Saddle has spent half a century gorging on the carcasses of Ulmus americanus
and is now ubiquitous wherever elms have lived and died.
Additional photos: