Written By Kris Brown.

Posted on November 15th, 2021.

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It was 6:00 AM on October 3rd. I had just turned off my headlamp after getting situated in my climbing treestand. Everything was dark except for some white splotches on the ground beneath me. 

It was 6:00 AM on October 3rd. I had just turned off my headlamp after getting situated in my climbing treestand. Everything was dark except for some white splotches on the ground beneath me. 

As visibility improved, I realized that I had climbed a tree inside the perimeter of a large ring of mushrooms. I guessed it was at least 30 feet in diameter. I had never heard of, much less witnessed a ring of mushrooms. I didn’t know it was a thing. I shrugged it off and started humming Johnny Cash: “I fell into a burning ring of … fungi”.

After an uneventful morning, I climbed down to investigate further. I was taken by the symmetry and size of the ring.

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The mushrooms were in great condition. I wondered if they were edible.

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I made a mental note that I must learn to identify wild edible mushrooms. I see so many mushrooms while deer scouting and hunting at the end of summer and early fall. Why not add to the fun by foraging? With that, I promised to someday make good on attending a Mushroom Foray at Siuslaw Model Forest in Acra, NY.

When I returned home, I googled “ring of mushrooms”. I learned that some people used to believe that the mushrooms grew in circles formed by rings of dancing fairies. That seems plausible. Fortunately, I didn’t encounter any fairies while inside the ring because legend has it they would have forced me to dance until I went crazy or perished (See Ariel Kusby’s The Myth and Lore of the Fairy Ring).

A more scientific explanation is that a fungi’s underground body (it’s mycelium) grows outward in a circle. Mushrooms (the fruiting bodies) grow aboveground behind the leading edge of the circular mycelium. The mycelium expands, self-fertilizing as it goes. Older mycelium in the center of the circle die when the nutrients are exhausted. Their death adds nutrients back to the soil and this is how fairy rings grow, at least as I understand it.

Perhaps you already knew how fairy rings formed and the supposed perils of stepping inside one. This was all interesting news to me, so I thought I’d share. Thanks for reading!


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