Fairy Rings: What are They and Why are They Common in Kentucky?
I was walking our sweet rambunctious Golden Retriever, Freddie the other day and noticed something weird in my neighbor's yard. A perfect circle of plump white mushrooms. It almost looked like they had been arranged that way.
Fairy Ring Lore
When I went to learn more, I found something very interesting. Apparently, there are supernatural legends surrounding these arrangements of toadstools dating back centuries. Also known as a Fairy or Elf Circle, ancient Celtic and early Appalachian folklore warns us not to ever enter or walk through them.
Story details vary based on what part of the world the phenomenon occurs, but the most common is that the mushrooms are evidence of fairies or sprites dancing in the moonlight. The legend goes that if a human encounters this, they could become cursed or worse! The spirits inhabiting the area have the power to put the intruder under a spell. Causing them to dance until they're overcome with exhaustion and lose their mind.
What Causes Fairy Rings?
Because they pop up so quickly, it may seem like they were put there by mythical creatures, however, there is a logical much less magical explanation, "Fungal disease." Obviously, because of the mushrooms, right? According to studies at Michigan State University, these rings "can range from less than one foot to more than 100 feet in diameter." All turf-type grasses are susceptible to the spores necessary to grow the fungi, but Kentucky Bluegrass seems to be the most vulnerable. Considered high-maintenance because it needs frequent mowing and proper drainage to stay healthy. Fairy Rings pop up when there is a lot of moisture in the ground and organic matter decomposing under the roots.
They can occur any time of year, but you will mostly find them in early spring and into the summer. Right now is primetime for the "magic" to happen with the rain and humidity we have had. Sometimes mushrooms don't appear at all, and you will just see a ring of dark green grass.
Can Fairy Rings be Prevented?
While it is not recommended to use the Fairy Ring mushrooms in your dinner, this fungus is not necessarily harmful to the soil enough to require removal. If you want to make sure they don't return, or keep the area safe for pets, you can dig up the affected section of your lawn and replace it with new soil and seed, but that is a lot of work. To avoid that, you could try to fertilize and till the ground or use a fungicide.
Funny enough, just this evening, I noticed a dark green circle forming in our front yard. I wonder if the fairies are getting ready for a rave out there! I will be sure to report back if a circle of white mushrooms pops up. Have you ever seen one or had one show up at your house?