Fairy Ring

Fairy Ring

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A fairy ring, also known as fairy circle, elf circle, elf ring, or pixie ring, is a naturally occurring phenomenon that appears as a circle or arc of mushrooms. They are found mainly in forested areas, but also appear in grasslands or rangelands.

Interestingly, there are many folktales that surround these circles of mushrooms and, unfortunately, they can cause some serious damage to lawns. This disease can produce a thick fungal mat that prevents water from reaching the grass roots down below.

They’re still incredibly fascinating when you stumble upon them, but be careful not to touch any of the mushrooms as they can be poisonous.

If you’re looking to learn everything there is to fairy rings, including the folklore that surrounds them, their causes, and how to treat them effectively, then you’re in the right place. This complete guide has it all, including products that can save you a ton of trouble!

Note: The name “fairy ring” comes from an old folk-tale. People once believed that the mushrooms appeared where fairies had danced the night before.

What are Fairy Rings?

Fairy rings are caused by a diverse family of soil-inhabiting fungi called basidiomycetes. They typically appear as dark green circles in the lawn ranging in size from a few inches to 200 feet or more in diameter.

Lush rings of turf are formed by the release of nutrients, in particular nitrogen, from the activity of the fungus living on organic matter in the soil. A circle of mushrooms usually develops around the edge of the infected area.

Fairy rings grow outward at the rate of 6 to 24 inches annually depending on grass, soil, and weather conditions. They are most common on sandy soils that are low in water and fertility. Thick thatch layers also contribute to this problem.

Besides being unsightly, fairy rings can cause serious damage to lawns. Often the disease will produce a thick fungal mat that prevents water from reaching the grass roots below.

Once the soil becomes dry it is very difficult to wet and the grassroots eventually die. The fungus may also deplete soil nutrients and, in some cases, will release a toxic by-product that can directly kill the turf within a ring.

What Causes Fairy Rings?

Fairy rings are created by an individual fungus that grows underground. The fungus produces a large number of tiny threads, known as mycelium or the vegetative part of a fungus, which it uses to spread an underground network of tiny, tubular threads, known as hyphae.

The edges of this network subsequently start to sprout mushroom caps. As the forms get larger, they consume all of the nutrients contained within them.

Usually, a year later, the mushrooms appear from the ground at the circle’s edge, forming the fairy ring. At first, the circle will be small, but as time goes on, it will get bigger.

Fairy rings are most frequently discovered in grassy and woodland regions. These rings of mushrooms are more likely to appear following wet weather or from late summer to early fall.

Common Myths Surrounding Fairy Rings

Fairy rings are so named because of old folktales, and different countries around the world, and especially Europe have their own folklore about them.

According to English and Celtic legend, fairies or elves dancing in a circle were the source of fairy rings. It was thought that if humans participated in the dance, the fairies would punish them by making them dance in the ring until they passed out from exhaustion.

In German legend, fairy rings were referred to as witches’ rings rather than fairy rings. They were said to be the location where witches would dance on Walpurgis Night, a spring festival held six months before Halloween.

Dragons were blamed in Austrian folklore for the development of fairy rings. Their fiery tails were claimed to have burned them into the forest floor.

There are a lot more stories about fairy rings that are based on myths. Some cultures think that mushrooms are portals to other worlds, while others believe that they serve as fairy dining tables.

Some people also think that they bring luck and are a sign that there is a fairy village underground. Another folktale advises against entering a fairy ring because you might turn invisible or get stuck there indefinitely.

Whatever your opinion about fairy rings, they are unquestionably a thrilling find if you ever come across one in the woods. Just be careful not to touch any of the mushrooms because some of them may be harmful and poisonous.

Types of Fairy Rings

Certain fungi that feed on decaying organic debris such as tree stumps, logs, leaves, or roots buried in the soil are what cause these fairy rings.

The growth of fairy ring fungi begins in the ring’s center and spreads outward in a relatively uniform circular pattern.

Depending on the type of soil, the particular fungus involved, and the surrounding conditions, three different types of fairy rings can develop. Let’s look at each of them in more detail:

Type I

Type 1 fairy rings are most common on golf course putting greens and less common on residential lawns. The fungi in question create substances that restrict the amount of water the soil can absorb, resulting in drought conditions that cause the grass in the ring to brown and die.

Type II

Fungi of type 2 fairy ring efficiently decompose organic materials, releasing nitrogen that encourages lush growth and forms a dense ring of green grass.

Type III

Type 3 fairy rings feature mushroom rings that emerge during wet periods, especially in the fall.

How to Get Rid of Fairy Rings (Treatment and Control)

Learning how to get rid of fairy rings might sound tricky, but there are things you can do to keep them at bay. Unfortunately, once the disease appears, it’s very difficult to eliminate them.

Practices that promote a healthy lawn will help to reduce the occurrence of this turfgrass disease. Let’s look at what these are:

  1. Remove excess thatch and aerate compacted soils.
  2. Keep lawns well-watered.
  3. Encourage beneficial soil microbes by top dressing with a humus builder such as well aged manure or finished compost.
  4. Homeowners will often mask the problem, using fertilizers rich in nitrogen, rather than eradicate it.
  5. Mushrooms can be removed by regular mowing or raking.
  6. Most fungicides have NOT proven to be effective.
  7. Your mantra should be; fertilize, water, aerate and mow.

Recommended products labeled for use against this fungal problem include:

  • Physan 20 works on a variety of disease outbreaks affecting lawns, turf, and grass. Use 1 Tbsp per gallon of water and thoroughly soak the problem area, repeat as needed. One pint diluted treats 6,400 square feet.

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