Have a nature question? Ask AL!

What are Fairy Rings?

A fairy ring in a lawn- the ring measures 7 feet across! 
photo by David Gough
In spite of the name, Fairy Rings have nothing to do with
fairies, but everything to do with fungi.
Sometimes, on a lawn, field, or in the woods, you’ll come upon a circle
of mushrooms – a ‘fairy ring’.  But where
did the name fairy ring come from?  You
can trace it back to ancient folklore:
“The name fairy ring comes from an old folk tale.  People once believed that mushrooms growing
in a circle followed the path made by fairies dancing in a ring . . .”
 Celtic peoples believed if you wanted to enter a ring, that
you must first run around it nine times – not ten, or you’ll annoy the fairies!

A common fairy ring that appears in lawns is the Fairy Ring
Marasmius.  We see the fruiting bodies (mushrooms)
but most of the fungus is underground (mycelium) spreading out to form a circle
which is usually greener than the rest of the grass.

Rings of the Fairy Ring Marasmius have been measured up to
10 metres in diameter.  A fairy ring of a
different species found in France was said to be 600 metres in diameter and
more than 700 years old.
* Ask Al is a regular feature in NatureWILD magazine. NatureWILD is produced quarterly by NatureKids BC and comes free with membership
Who is Al? Al Grass has worked as a career park naturalist and ranger throughout BC. Now he is a well-known nature tour leader and photographer. Al especially likes birds, insects and spiders. If you have a nature question you want answered write to Al at: info@naturekidsbc.ca and perhaps your question will be answered in an upcoming issue!  
What are Fairy Rings, NatureWILD Volume 10, Issue 1, 2009

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