Knowing there had to be a perfectly good, logical explanation why this circle of ‘shrooms was there, I set out to uncover the toadstool ring's origin. But what I found was that the fantastical version is considerably more...entertaining.
Fairy rings, as they have long been called, have found a popular place in folklore for thousands of years.
Wikipedia says that a fairy ring, also known as a fairy circle, elf circle, elf ring or pixie ring, is a naturally occurring ring or arc of mushrooms.
European folklore believes that fairy rings are gateways into elfin kingdoms or places where elves gather and dance. According to the folklore, a fairy ring appears when a fairy, pixie or elf appears. It will disappear without a trace in less than five days, but if an observer waits for the elf to return to the ring, he or she may be able to capture it.
Now, for the scientific version, which is interestingly significant but less appealing.
Mushrooms, also sometimes called toadstools, tend to pop up through the soil in woods or on lawns after heavy rains (thank you, Hurricane Isaac).
The rings can grow to over 33 ft. in diameter, and they become stable over time as the fungus grows and seeks food underground.
Purdue University states that the presence of mushrooms usually indicates an organic source of nutrients, such as a buried tree stump or chopped down bush was or is nearby.
When you see a mushroom growing in a lawn, you are only seeing a small part of the fungus, Purdue says. The fungus also grows underground as a thread-like mass that is called mycelium. This mycelium tends to grow in all directions from a central point. Thus, an invisible circular pattern occurs. The fruiting bodies (mushrooms) then tend to appear in a circular pattern.
The term “fairy ring” comes from a superstition that the mushrooms growing in a circle represent the path of dancing fairies. Usually on the inside of the fairy ring, a dark green ring of grass will be evident. This is because extra nitrogen is available in that area where the fungal mycelium has died.
There is no good control for a fairy ring. Mushrooms can be temporarily removed by regular mowing or raking. Since they are most visible on low fertility conditions, you can mask the fairy rings by regular applications of low rates of nitrogen.
The fairy ring of fungus, photographed above, was discovered last Thursday, Sept. 6. However, as of Monday, Sept. 10, the lawn had been cut, removing with it a very, fairy tale.