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Fairy Ring, 8m wide. Sent in by Lisa Robson
What is a fairy ring?
A fairy ring is a visible circle or arc of lush green grass often accompanied by fungus fruit bodies (which are mushroom shaped but occasionally puff balls can be seen to form a ring). There are around 60 different species of fungi that are known to form fairy rings and some of the rings are over 100 years old!
Why do fairy rings form?
In a field, parkland or open grassland, fairy rings form from a single fungal spore which has blown into the area and begins to germinate producing fine filaments called hyphae that radiate outwards. These filaments which make up the main body of filamentous fungi merge to form a network known as the mycelium, which spreads out from the centre in a circular pattern in a very similar way to a colony growing in a Petri dish. Fruit bodies (mushrooms or puff balls) appear above the ground near the edge of this spread at any time from June through to December but more frequently in the autumn months. Over the years, the circle will get bigger increasing in diameter by up to 200 mm each year.
Other fungus species form rings in woods around trees or in the leaf litter. Here, some of the fungi are working with the trees, tethered to them and radiating their mycelial networks outwards to capture water and nutrients for the tree and in return receive sugars made by the tree during photosynthesis; whilst other woodland fungal fairy ring formers are not associated with a particular tree but are actively involved in the decomposition of the woodland leaf litter.
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