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Fairy Rings


 "Where science does not teach a child to wonder and admire it has perhaps no educative value."      - Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 224


the fairy ring!


The outdoor columnist for our local paper, Ron Kuecker, wrote about his sighting of a fairy ring north of town in this week's paper.  Our wet summer and wet fall have produced conditions  perfect for the growth of this  fungal phenomena.  So of course we jumped in the car to try and find the fabled fairy ring!  The science behind fairy rings is fascinating and we had fun reading about that afterwards.  But the enchantment comes first for us.  Notice that she wouldn't go inside the ring. (!) Have you spotted any of these recently?  This is the largest  ring I have ever seen.

And these fairy rings are also one of those things whose scientific explanation is just as enchanting as the folklore surrounding it.  Here is an excerpt from The Book of Knowledge*:

The mushrooms' force of growth is so great that they often lift masses of earth and stones many times their own wight.  Sometimes you can see grass or moss still growing on top of a mushroom with the torn earth handing over the side of the mushroom's cap.  Among the most attractive mushroom growths are the famous fairy rings.  Some ancient peoples thought they resulted from the midnight dancing of fairies.  In a fairy ring a mass of fungal threads (the whole mass is called a mycelium) starts growing in a circle.  As it grows, the mycelium exhausts the soil in the circle, baring the sod, but sends up mushrooms on the circumference.  As the mushrooms decay, they enrich the soil so that dark lush grass grows inside the ring.  The ring of mushrooms enlarges year by year.  Almost perfect rings 160 feet in diameter have been observed.


close-up of a mushroom from the ring



You can read more about fairy rings here. Also, Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study has a section on them.  And do let me know if you have seen any lately.


Truly,
Nancy


*The Book of Knowledge is a vintage encyclopedia set worth owning.  Valerie has written a helpful description here.
fairy ring picture from The Book of Knowledge

13 comments:

  1. You know, we don't get many mushrooms out here in the semi-desert of Montana. We were therefore surprised to see some last week when taking advantage of one of the last warm days to go to a park with a small-ish lake. Of course this was a nature study outing as well! We saw 2 fairy rings on some grass that got quite a bit of traffic, Go figure! We also saw the locally noticed 'Jeffrey the silly Canada Goose' who gut struck in the head with a hailstone and 'hasn't been quite right ever since' (according to the local news report). He follows the scuba diving club on land and water and mimics their diving actions! Your post has reminded me that I need to explain how the fairy rings came to be. Thanks!

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    1. I love the Jeffrey the Goose story! You have such gorgeous scenery and abundant opportunities for nature studies in your area. So interesting about the fairy rings that you saw, too. Thanks for sharing your experience and say "hi" to Jeffrey for me.

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  2. I vaguely remember reading about fairy rings somewhere, Nancy, but this is all new to me! Thank you for sharing! How interesting!!!!

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  3. We love fairy rings! When we have good mushroom years, there are several large rings in our neighbors yard. The children get sad if they mow them. We are always keeping our eyes out for them. And you know who always danced in the rings.

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    1. Next time we hope to have our Nature Journals with us! How fun that you get them next door, Cheri.

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  4. What a beautiful fairy ring!!! It is huge! My favorite fairy ring experience was in eastern Finland, near the Russian border. My husband and I were staying on a farm near Savonlinna, which is surrounded by many beautiful nordic lakes. We found a white birch forest that was enchanting--just like something out of Lord of the Rings. And in the yard of our guesthouse were fairy rings! The entire experience was so enchanting that I wish we could have stayed longer. So peaceful and beautiful and a wonderful preparation for the next phase of our life--9 months after that trip our first child was born!

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    1. Wow, Polly! That does sound AMAZING! What a peaceful gift and lovely memory.

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  5. I saw a fairy ring the day you posted this! So fun! Do you remember seeing one at the CM Institute (Childlight Conference) several years ago on our nature walk? The first I ever heard of them was in the Raggedy Ann books when Marcella found one in the garden and thought the fairies had dropped their buttons or some such....I've tried doing read alouds of those old Johnny Gruelle books, but they're dreadfully annoying. I loved them and read them over and over as a child, but now I think they verge on twaddle :) Maybe my imagination just isn't what it once was! Good to see your post. Have a delightful fall!

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  6. Yes, I remember that from the Raggedy Ann book! I have tried to enjoy them, too, but to no avail. I have them all but find them...twaddley. Autumn delights to you, too, Alison!

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  7. I'm so glad you posted this about fairy rings! I've never heard of them before, but this summer in VA I think I saw one! It was so unique! After seeing the picture you posted, I do think that is what I saw - neat :).

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  8. That is so neat. We had one in our yard a couple of years ago, but haven't seen one since!

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  9. We are reading Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. In the book, Daisy finds a fairy ring. I remembered this post and read it to my boys. We've never seen one so they were fascinated!

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    1. Oh, that's just perfect! I want to hear all about it when they see their first one IRL!
      Warmly,
      Nancy

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