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Residents awake to find 'fairy ring' in their yard

Thursday, August 22, 2002

SCOTT CITY, Mo. -- Since Alvie Baker of 415 Grand Ave. in Scott City mowed last Friday, he and his wife, Gladys, have had an unusual phenomenon pop up in their yard -- a fairy ring.

A fairy ring is a circle of mushrooms caused by an underground fungus called mycelium. Mycelium is the term for the underground mass of interwoven threadlike filaments that are a part of mushrooms and other fungi, according to the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

Mycelium spreads through the soil, decomposing dead grass roots and other organic material as it extends outward in circular fashion. Like fire in dry leaves, mycelium consumes what it can use in the center and must grow radially to acquire new fuel.

Mushrooms, the fruiting bodies of mycelium, are formed at the outside edge of the actively spreading mycelium.

There are three types of fairy rings, according to Bill Carlos, horticulturist in Washoe County, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

Type 1 exhibits a zone of dead grass with one or two zones of stunted turf and mushrooms.

Type 2 shows itself as a single ring of stimulated grass with some new evidence of mushrooms.

Type 3 exhibits only mushrooms, with no visible effect on grass.

"We have mushrooms in our yard every year," Alvie Baker said, "but we've never had anything like this.

"It's the first one I've ever seen. I didn't know what it was, but our neighbor pointed it out and my wife knew what it was."

Baker said he thought the mushrooms had reached their peak and would begin to die soon. He planned to wait on mowing them off until then.

Aerial photos have displayed fairy rings as large as 200 meters in diameter. Such large rings are thought to be more than 600 years old.

One ring formed in France by the fungus Clitocybe geotropa is almost a half mile in diameter and thought to be 700 years old.

jgosche@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133


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