Cerioporus squamosus: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide
About The Cerioporus squamosus Mushroom
Cerioporus squamosus aka Polyporus Squamosus is a bracket fungus species in the Polyporaceae family. This edible mushroom grows in overlapping clusters and tiers on broad-leaved trees. The fruit bodies appear in summer and autumn. Insects quickly devour these large brackets, and in warm weather, they can decay from full splendour to almost nothing in just a few days.
When growing on the trunks of trees (sycamore, willow, poplar, walnut) this polypore forms brackets that do look rather like saddles; however, they can also occur on fallen trunks and large branches or emerge from the soil where a tree root is just below soil level. In these situations, Polyporus squamosus takes on a very different form: a funnel. Some of these funnels are perfect horns; more often they are slightly one-sided.
The outer edges of young caps are edible and tender, but mature caps have tough flesh - especially near to the attachment point. Within three or four weeks, Dryad's Saddles become maggot ridden and turn into a smelly mess.
These mushrooms are best harvested when young and fresh, they can become infested with maggots if left long enough and they develop an unpleasant rubbery, firm texture with age, eventually becoming inedible. It's said to have a mild nutty flavour and a scent of watermelon rind.
Other names: Dryad's Saddle; Pheasant's-Back Polypore.
Cerioporus squamosus Identification
Saprobic on decaying hardwood logs and stumps, and parasitic on living hardwoods (in the Midwest and eastern North America it is found on a wide variety of hardwoods, but it is especially fond of silver maple and box elder; in western North America it appears primarily on quaking aspen); causing a white heartrot; growing alone or, more often, in clusters of two or three; annual; typically found in spring, but also sometimes found in summer and fall (even in winter, during warm spells); widely distributed in North America but much more common east of the Rocky Mountains.
5–30 cm across; 1–4 cm thick; variable in outline but generally semicircular, kidney-shaped, or fan-shaped; broadly convex, becoming flat, shallowly depressed, or deeply depressed; dry; pale tan to creamy yellowish, with an overlay of large, flattened, brown to blackish scales that are vaguely radially arranged; in old age sometimes whitish with reddish to black scales, or developing a black area over the center; the thin margin initially incurved, later even.
Running down the stem; whitish to creamy, becoming yellowish with old age; not bruising; pores large at maturity, angular, and frequently irregular; tube layer up to 1.5 cm deep, not readily separable as a layer.
2–8 cm long; 1–4 cm thick; usually off-center or lateral; whitish above, but soon becoming covered, from the base up, with a velvety, dark brown to black tomentum; solid.
Thick; soft when young but soon becoming corky and tough, especially in the stem; white; unchanging when sliced.
Odor and Taste: Strongly mealy.
Spore Print: White.
Cerioporus squamosus Cooking Notes
When they’re young and soft, these can be succulent little nuggets. When they get older, they’re tough and inedible, similar to chicken of the woods, but unlike chickens, they are un-chewable, no matter the age.
The first thing you should do with a dryad’s saddle is cut off the black stem (if present), then trim and scrape away the pores on the bottom side of the cap. The pores on the underside of the cap are a bit textural, you can remove them by scraping with the side of a paring knife.
The best choice to slice these mushrooms very thin, as in near transparent. To get them thin enough, you will need a mandoline slicer. Don’t worry about the mushrooms breaking up or disintegrating into a sauce, their firm texture makes them resilient, like shiitakes.
You want to keep this damp while cooking too, browning a little bit is ok, but heavy browning or sauteing can make them toughen and dry out. You can cook them sliced as thin as possible in a covered pan with a bit of butter and salt, and just a splash of liquid like water, wine or stock until the liquid evaporates, and the mushrooms brown, just a little.
Cerioporus squamosus Taxonomy & Etymology
The species was first described scientifically by British botanist William Hudson in 1778, who named it Boletus squamosus. It was given its current name "Polyporus Squamosus" in 1886 by Quélet.
The generic name Polyporus means "having many pores", and fungi in this genus do indeed have tubes terminating in pores (usually very small and a lot of them) rather than gills or any other kind of hymenial surface.
The specific epithet squamosus means scaly, and in the case of the Dryad's Saddle the cap surface is indeed beautifully patterned with large brown scales.
With the increasing incidence of Ash Die-back disease, it can be expected that Dryad's Saddles become an even more common sight. Often when an old tree becomes infected with this fungus the fruitbodies emerge well above head height, as was the case with the fruitbodies pictured immediately above, which emerged from the trunk more than four metres above ground level.
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