Fairy Rings – a magical Autumn event!

Outside our office is a little patch of heaven.  All through the summer we have been delighted by the wildflowers as they have appeared and the resulting wildlife that has been attracted to the nectar and later the resulting flower seeds.   Last week the weather the glorious and sunny, getting better and better as the week progressed.  After a bout of rain but equally warm conditions, we were treated to a bit of an Indian summer, so imagine my surprise and delight when I looked out and saw a fairy ring.
Fairy rings have long held a place in European folklore, alternately malicious and benevolent, depending on which century you lived in and your nationality. But how do they get there?  What causes them to grow in a circle?
Well just for our readers I have done a bit of research.  The fact is that fungi (which create the fairy ring) such as toadstools and wild mushrooms use up a lot of nitrogen when growing. They therefore tend to spread their spores outward from where they are first located, so that the new growth has soil in which to grow that still contains what they need.  As nutrients are used up the growth circle simply expands.
The fairy ring at Ashe Warren farm is of Marasmius oreades, a mushroom – please don’t eat it unless you are 100% sure it really is this species – which has the ability to regenerate after being soaked with water if by some chance it dries out .  Now for the science bit – apparently according to Steve Saupe of St Johns University, Minnesota, Marasmius oreades is able to withstand drying out because of a high level of “trehalose”  as much as 10% – 18%.  Trehalose are plant sugars extracted from yeast that can prevent  desiccation (drying out).  So unlike most mushrooms that die back when dehydrated, Marasmius can be resurrected.  That’s pretty cool!
Really it is all a matter of personal taste and belief.  For those who prefer straightforward biology, the mushroom circle is still a fascinating thing to observe and maybe even study.  For others and certainly for children who love mystery and legends, the fairy ring is a magical event, mostly associated with Autumn and always associated with the countryside, wildflowers and woodland adventures.
Here are a few photographs of our fairy ring.  Why not have a look outside at your wildflower meadow (if you are lucky enough to have one) and see if you have any fairy rings.  It would be great to see your fairy ring pictures so do send them in so we can see them too –  please!

Fairy Ring in the sunshine in the trial wildflower meadow

Close up of Marasmius oreades