Be careful if you get into the ring with a fun guy

In the Garden with Mr. Bee

October 20, 2011|By Lou

Seemingly overnight, toadstools sprouted on our lawn. But not only had dozens mushroomed, some of the toadstools had even sprouted side-by-side into a perfectly formed circle.

Circular formations of toadstools are not commonplace. However, whenever toadstools sprout into in a circular formation, the formation is commonly called a "fairy ring."

Fairy rings?

For centuries, fairy rings have been associated with folklore and superstitions. In western Europe, for instance, some people still believe that fairy rings are caused by fairies or elves dancing in the middle of the night. They also believe that to disturb a fairy ring, or to enter one, is inadvisable, unless you feel like flirting with misfortune.

Science, on the other hand, has determined that fairy rings are simply "toadstools" — the fruits of fungi — that sprout in circular formations whenever their growing conditions are ideal. And the recent rains that have occurred in rapid succession are probably the main reason why I'm seeing more toadstools than usual.

Some folks think that toadstools and fairy rings are attractive. Others think of them as weeds. Regardless, there's nothing a gardener can do to encourage or to discourage toadstools from appearing, since toadstools arise from wood that's decomposing deep underground.

But if a lawn is deficient in nitrogen because it hasn't been recently fed with a nitrogen-based lawn food, the grass growing in the center of a fairy ring is usually less green than the rest of the lawn, because toadstools remove nitrogen from soil.

By definition, toadstools aren't even plants, since they don't photosynthesize. Toadstools are fungi.

In any case, I'm not a fan of fairy rings or toadstools. So at the risk of facing the wrath of the neighborhood's fairies and elves, I knock ours over with a rake. Then I add them to our compost pile.

I never eat fungi I find growing wild.

Only an expert can distinguish between edible mushrooms and poisonous toadstools. So when mushrooms are on our menu, we buy them at the grocery store.

In the meantime, fairy rings are nothing to get excited about unless you're superstitious. If I ever see a "crop circle" in the middle of our yard, though, that would be exciting.

This week in the garden

I once watched a squirrel munching away on a toadstool like it was a giant cookie. I wonder if it got sick.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.