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FUNgi: "Otherworldly" fairy rings have a far more down-to-earth explanation

Photo courtesy Barry Fugatt
Mysterious circles of mushrooms, called "fairy rings," have fascinated humans for centuries, with folklore attributing them to "otherworldly activities."
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OKLAHOMA CITY – With the recent rains that have blessed the Oklahoma countryside these past weeks, it was noted, in a recent edition of the Tulsa World, in an article headlined “Fairy rings sprouting across Tulsa after rains,” that these circles of fairy ring mushrooms “may pop up in lawns several times a year.”

Why? Because the “fairy ring fungi” find rainy, mild conditions perfect to grow, sprouting “cream-colored mushroom caps” which “are the spore-producing reproductive part of the fungus.”

This, all according to Barry Fugatt, director of horticulture at the Tulsa Garden Center and Linnaeus Teaching Garden, in his Tulsa World piece.

These fairy ring fungi, Fugatt tells us, are not attacking your grass, really, but is targeting and breaking down organizc matter in the soil, including old tree roots, stumps, lawn thatch, etc., he writes.

The circle, we learn, here, is part of a much larger network of subterranean mycelia, the “true organism” that forms the circle “whole,” which is called the mycelium.

But the mystical and mythical nature of the fairy rings, also known as witch rings, sorcerer's rings, and elf circles, has capitvated many, with its strange, bewitching quality. We saw a few fairy rings here in Oklahoma City a few weeks ago, just as folks in Tulsa did.

The fairy rings remind me of a New Age music album I've enjoyed since the 1990's called The Fairy Ring, by English piano and synthesizer composer Mike Rowland. This 44-minute instrumental album, broken up into four separate "parts," is uncomplicated and soothing and, despite being recorded a long while back, it still resonates today in putting me in a relaxed mood.

The music does conjure that "otherworldly" quality of the fairy ring, as Fugatt points out in his article.

The sudden appearance of mysterious circles of mushrooms in grassy areas has, for centuries, conjured images of otherworldly activities,” writes Fugatt. “The poorly understood circles have a long and colorful history, particularly in European folklore. Often, they were attribute to the dancing activities of elves, pixies, or fairies. Legends warn against humans disrupting the site or joining the dance, lest they be punished.

As notes, Celtic folklore said this of those who step into fairy rings: “Most often, someone who violates a fairy perimeter becomes invisible to mortals outside and may find it impossible to leave the circle. Often, the fairies force the mortal to dance to the point of exhaustion, death, or madness.”

(Image courtesy Wikipedia)

And the famous, November 1971 UFO case in Delphos, Kansas - which left a "ring" on the ground - was initially thought to be attributable to a "fairy ring," but this Feb. 2017 UK Express article suggests that the "ring" was not a fairy ring at all, but something truly "otherworldly," according to the story.

Who knows?

Fugatt, meanwhile, has fun with his "fairy ring" story, telling the reader, in the final paragraph, that if you do not like the appearance of the fairy rings on your green lawn, "then by all means knock th ecaps over with a big stick and run like the wind! An angry witch may be hot on your heels."

Let Red Dirt Report if you have seen a fairy ring in your neck of the woods. And we'll post it on our site!

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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