Fairy Rings.Motivation for this piece was sparked after finding a huge fairy ring of Chanterellus cibarus (Chanterelle) in Springhill. The fungus ring (on estimate, using its diameter) must be at least 200 years old. It is associated with a beech which must have been planted some 250 years old. Fairy rings occur naturally, they can pop up in fields, lawns, or forests as a fungus continues to grow underground.They can be an annoying nuisance on your lawn. Fairy rings have a long history in folklore, different cultures believe they represent different things, but usually a place where elves, pixies, or fairies dance and play! Dangerous places for humans!! Better to avoid them than be caught up in magic you don't understand !The reality behind these rings is more scientific, so what is the science behind them? What causes fairy rings?These circles result from a particular pattern of mycelium growth (the underground part of a fungus which produces reproductive fruiting bodies known as mushrooms. In the case of a fairy ring, the mycelium starts from a single fruiting body and grows in a circular shape, pushing outwards to obtain more nutrients. It exhausts the nutrients on the inside of the ring and widens in an ever-growing circle that doesn't grow inwards as there's no new food on the inside of the circle. The mycelium started at one point, but has nowhere to go but in an outward moving circle.So why don't we see more of them?Many factors influence the circular growth pattern- soil type and condition, amount of nutrients in the soil, obstructions, and soil composition. The ground is usually even, a reason why you often see them on lawns.Probably you've seen more fairy rings than you know. We only notice them when they produce mushrooms, but the underground mycelium is always there and growing.How do I recognize them?The most obvious clue is a circle of mushrooms , but you can often spot clues from the condition of the grass. Sometimes you'll see a ring of dark green grass or a ring of dry, dead grass, depending on the type of fungus and how it affects the soil.The dark circles occur when the mycelium breaks down organic material and releases nitrogen. Grass needs nitrogen to grow so the added nutrients cause better growth than grass around it.A dead area often remains in the centre of the ring ,due to withered or dead plant life as the fungi depletes the soil of nutrients . Have you a circle of dead grass or dark green grass in your lawn?- someday a circular ring of mushrooms may fruit. Are there different types of these rings?Fairy rings appear either free or tethered depending on how the mushroom feeds and where the ring appears.Free rings aren't connected with any other organisms and are found in fields, or lawns. The mushrooms that pop up in these rings feed on dead or dying organic material.Tethered rings appear in woods, with a tree in the centre. They are "tethered" to the tree because the fungus has a symbiotic relationship with the roots of the tree, helping the tree to access nutrients and water and the tree gives the fungus sugars.Are there certain species of mushrooms involved in producing rings?Almost any type of mushroom could grow in a ring, but usually around 60 can make this pattern.The most well known is the fairy ring mushroom often seen on golf courses . Some other species you may see in rings:Amanita muscaria-Fly AgaricAmanita phalloides-Death CapCalvatia cyathiformis Clitocybe nuda (the edible wood blewit)There are many more, but note: both edible and poisonous mushrooms produce fairy rings! so never use ring formation as a tool for mushroom identification. The magic of fairy rings- interesting facts.Rings continue to grow over time, resulting in a ring that can be thousands of feet wide, and hundreds of years old.One of the most impressive rings ever was found in France- 2,000 feet wide and over 700 years old!Time, environmental factors, and animal droppings may replace nutrients in the centre of the ring resulting in a second ring growing inside the first.A ring may expand around 12’’ per year.Other names include elf ring, pixie ring, and fairy circle. Fairy ring folklore:In German folklore they mark a place where witches gather and dance. Dutch superstitions state that the rings are where the Devil churns his milk.In Austria it is claimed that the legendary rings were created by dragons. There are many fairy ring stories in Celtic folklore around the belief that the rings were places where elves or fairies dance. The legends warn against humans joining the dance, lest they be punished or taken by the fairies!!Have you ever seen a fairy ring? Science now knows the true reason for them, but the rings still spark the imaginations of young and old.
..and Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui)There has been an influx of ‘Painted Lady’ butterflies this year..due to winds from North Africa, favourable weather conditions allowing generational breeding on the journey, and easier migration across Europe-so enjoy them-we might not have so many again for several years. They can cover 100 miles per day during migration,reaching a speed of nearly 30 miles per hour. Thistle is one of the painted lady caterpillar's favourite food plants. The butterfly is probably abundant because its larvae feed on such a common plant.Colour on the wings can vary from orange to pink (might be simply due to it’s age).