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Fairy rings: Not so magical

Warm weather and excessive rain encouraged mushrooms to sprout in our yard. When mushrooms appear in a circle or arc they are considered a turf abnormality called a “fairy ring.”

Fairy ring folklore can be found throughout Europe. One of the first appearances of fairy rings comes from Germany. Fairy rings were known as “witch’s rings.” These rings were created by witches gathering and dancing in the forest. Their energy left behind would create a “fungus” and mushrooms would grow in their place.

In English folklore mushroom rings were known as fairy or pixie rings. These were caused by fairies or pixies dancing in a circle. As they wore down the grass, they left a circular pattern of mushrooms behind. Toads would then sit on the mushroom and poison them, creating a “toadstool.”

In Scotland, if farmers tilled an area containing fairy rings, it was believed that “bizarre days and weary nights will last to his dying day.”

Like these early myths and superstitions, today’s fairy rings are considered a curse rather than good fortune. In reality, fairy rings usually do not present a lethal threat to a lawn, but sometimes a ring of dead grass occurs in addition to the ring of stimulated grass growth. Death inside the ring is due to the lack of water penetration caused by a dense mat of fungal mycelium in the soil. Fairy rings normally reoccur each year, and their diameter slowly increases.

Fairy rings survive in organic debris in the soil or thatch layer. The fungal ring begins at a central point and can grow outward at a rate of 1 to 2 feet per year. Often rings will grow right out of a small lawn.

The most practical method of dealing with fairy ring is through a cosmetic approach. Disguise the symptoms by providing adequate water deep into the root zone, and by applying moderate rates of fertilizer. This will increase the vigor of the surrounding grass to a level more like that of the grass in the fairy ring.

Many of the mushrooms associated with fairy rings may be toxic to humans and especially toxic to small children and pets. Remove them by hand-picking or mowing as soon as possible.

If you are having bizarre days and weary nights, don’t blame it on the fairy rings. They are really not all that magical.

Rebecca Bates is director of the Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Service. To contact her, call 601-835-3460.