The Cilonw Brook falls quickly from the foot of Hay Bluff in a series of small waterfalls, cutting a deep channel through the woods before slowing and spreading into a broad, shallow brook, where it can be forded, and then on again in a rush down to join the Wye below Hay. High up in the wooded valley where the broad leaf trees begin to give way to conifer we found these spectacular examples of the Dryad’s Saddle.
The ancient Greeks believed that dryads were forest nymphs who cared for the trees and protected them from intruders. These very solitary mythical creatures did not mingle with the other gods, preferring the shelter of the wood and forest. The Dryad’s Saddle provided a flat pliable surface on the side of the tree, affording a protective vantage point: a saddle for a dryad.
Polyporus squamosus is one of the most common of the bracket fungi seen in Britain and Ireland. It occurs across most of mainland Europe and in many parts of Asia and North America. It was first described scientifically by the English botanist and apothecary William Hudson in 1778, who named it Boletus squamosus. The species was renamed Polyporus squamosus in 1821 by the Swedish mycologist Elias Magnus Fries in his Systema Mycologicum.
Also know as the Pheasant-back Polypore: pheasant because of the feather-like scales on the surface of the fungus and polypore because the underside of the cap is covered with pores. The pores serve the same function as the gills that are on the underside of the cap on most mushrooms; they contain structures called basidia that create, protect and eject the spores when the environmental conditions for propagation are present.
There are recipes for cooking this fungi including one that suggests frying slices of young Dryad’s Saddles with bacon and serving on hot buttered toast. Another suggests marinading the saddle in olive oil and garlic overnight and then baking it whole. Personally I prefer to enjoy them in the woods rather than on a plate.
Top two: 22mm handheld: f.6.3 @ 1/160, ISO 360, sun through tree canopy.
Bottom three: 105mm macro handheld: f.7.1 @ 1/125, ISO 640, sun through tree canopy.