Sunday, July 01, 2012

Fairy Ring

June must be the month for fairy rings.  Driving around town I know I’ve seen atleast 10 of these in various spots. Also known as-“ fairy circle, elf circle, elf ring, or pixie ring”, it is a complete circle of mushrooms, but sometimes, like here, only an arc.

Some types are found only in forested areas, whereas others in grasslands.  Fairy rings originate from an arrangement of thread-like mycelium in the soil that began from a ring of spores dropped from a single mushroom. Mushrooms are the fruit or “fruiting bodies” that sprout from this mycelium network. They begin as small naturally occurring rings, around one foot or less in diameter. Successive generations grow outwards year after year, and if no barriers are present to restrict the ring’s growth it will continue to get larger as the years pass.  The largest on record was found in France that measured close to half a mile diameter and is believed to be 600-700 years old. Most people would not give this naturally occurring arrangement of fungus a second look. Seems like just a bunch of dang unsightly mushrooms to most.  If you’re aware of the Irish folklore behind this dang bunch of unsightly mushrooms, then it becomes something of interest.

Folklore tells us that fairies and pixies gather at night to dance in a ring and the next morning mushrooms spring up where they danced, and if a mortal steps into a fairy ring they might be carried away by fairies. They’re also thought to be “gateways” to elfin kingdoms.

While mowing grass on our property I came across a dark green arc of grass, which means that there is mycellium growth beneath this arc.  Mycellium produces nitrogen as it breaks down organic material and a plant hormone known as gibberellin, which both stimulates growth.  It's as if I dumped fertilizer only in the area where the grass looks a richer color of green.  Soon mushrooms will begin to sprout near this arc forming a fairy ring.  Seems fairies and pixies have been rather busy here in our little town.

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