Archive for Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Fairy rings crop up in area

Origins of mushroom rings actually from fungus

July 9, 2003

According to folklore, those rings of mushrooms that crop up periodically in area lawns are created by fairies dancing on dew-laden grass in the moonlight.

But according to an instructor with K-State Research and Extension in Manhattan, fairy rings -- as the rings of mushrooms are called -- actually are evidence of a fungus that grows underground.

"The largest one I've seen is 15 feet across," said Ward Upham. "I'm sure there are larger ones than the ones I've seen."

Upham explained that most of the fungus' growth is underground.

"Sometimes, they put up the fruiting structures, which are mushrooms," he said.

Whether the mushrooms are edible depends on what type of fungus is producing them.

"Unless you are sure they're edible, don't eat them because there are some that will be poisonous," Upham said.

The fungus starts in a single spot and grows outward. Inside the ring of mushrooms, the grass typically is in fine shape because the fungus has passed through that area. However, soil that is affected by the mushrooms tends to reject water, which means the grass will turn brown. Water will run off because it cannot permeate the fungus.

"What they're doing is feeding on dead organic material," Upham said. "They don't feed on the turf itself. It's going to go on as long as the fungus can find that dead organic material it needs to keep going. If it does, the ring is going to get larger in diameter."

To solve the problems in grass created by fairy rings, some people aerate the soil or use a tree-root feeder, which injects water into the soil.

The most common time homeowners notice lawn damage is when the weather dries out, Upham said.

"It's relatively common," he said. "We get calls into our office every year."

And it's highly unusual to see fairy rings in cultivated farmland.

"It has to be something that is undisturbed," Upham said. "That why you see it normally in lawns. If the ground's worked, you disturb the fungus."

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