Fairy rings are magical places, nearly perfect circles of mushrooms that run from a few to many feet in diameter. Also called fairy circles or pixie rings, they were more often seen in the days when pastures were common and before chemicals and frequent mowing turned lawns into monotonous carpets of green.
A fairy ring marks the edge of an underground growth of fungus, called mycelium. This subterranean body spreads slowly outward, emitting chemicals ahead of it that convert organic matter to food usable by the fungus. When the time is right, the mycelium shoots up mushrooms at its outer edge. Like flowers on plants, they distribute spores that will create future fungi and, perhaps, fairy rings.
That’s the scientific explanation. Folklorists tell more colorful tales of fairies and elves, dancing in circles, wearing down the grass and sparking toadstools to sprout. If you weren’t careful and stepped inside a fairy ring, you might be transported into another world.
More fantastic than folklore is fact, however. There’s a fairy ring in France that’s a half-mile wide and said to be 700 years old!