Ilex VS Fairy Rings

imageFairy Ring fungi are in the soil to break down old tree stumps, roots, logs and other larger pieces of organic material in the soil below the lawn. The uniform outward growth of the fungus results in the development of rings. Once the material is exhausted, the fairy ring will disappear. This may take many years. Several fairy rings may appear close together, especially in lawns that were previously wooded areas.

When these fungi digest the organic material, they expel nitrogen. This is why the grass looks seemingly happy in the fairy ring. However, sometimes the opposite effect can happen, which depletes soil nutrients and produces toxic levels of hydrogen cyanide.

fairy rigerApproximately 50 species of fungi in the Basidiomycetes family are known to cause fairy rings in turf; however, there are only three outcomes:

  • Variety A: The most inconspicuous type of fairy ring. The dark ring of grass is absent. Only parts of the ring will show fruiting bodies (mushrooms) at different times of the year, mostly during wet springs.
    • Remove the mushrooms to help retard the spread in the area. Don’t over-water.
  • Variety B: It’s the dark green rings, with or without mushrooms, which identify these varieties of fairy rings. At worst, this type of ring can appear unsightly with its lush growth, accompanied with mushrooms.
    • Remove any mushrooms and use a balanced fertilizer to green up the rest of the lawn so the ring is not as obvious.
  • Variety C: This variety of fairy ring is the most destructive and damaging as it produces a ring of dead grass. The dead area can contain fruiting bodies. If a soil profile is pulled from the dead area, white thread-like structures called mycelia will be visible in the soil. Mycelium is hydrophobic. Because of this property, it causes water to move away from the circle, thus drying out the grass.

There are really no fast cures for fairy rings that aren’t extreme. Digging up the area to remove the organic matter the fungi is feeding on, along with all of the adjacent soil is one method. It’s been said that fairy rings do not cross. Some have said that digging up one soil from one fairy ring and exchanging it for another has worked. Spraying fungicides are a waste of money.

Fairy danceThere’s another theory about how fairy rings are created…Fairies create the circles by dancing within them.

Some cultures believe these circles to be dangerous to humans. Those violating fairy perimeters become invisible to those outside and may be unable leave the circle. The fairies then force the intruder to dance till exhausted, dead, or in the throes of madness.

The only safe way to investigate a fairy ring is to run around it nine times. Doing this permits the runner to hear the fairies dancing underground. This must be done under a full moon and in the direction the sun travels.

Other cultures still believe in fairy activity and that fairy rings are omens of good fortune. Some legends see fairy circles as places of fertility and fortune. The Welsh believe that mountain sheep eating the grass from a fairy ring flourish and crops sown around tend to grow better. European folklore believe fairy rings are gateways into elfin kingdoms.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

29 thoughts on “Ilex VS Fairy Rings

  1. we are one of that cultures who think they are dangerous :o) it’s called witch circles here and they say this circles grow if the devil celebrated walpurgis night (last night of april) with the witches there. you should have a scissors to cut of the magic spell before you enter such a circle :o)


  2. Fascinating and educational both. I’d be interested in some thoughts on purely organic gardening – a chemical ban and what the alternatives are besides a lot of tolerance 🙂


    • Great. I can do that! Just to hone it down a bit, organics in general? Or related to a specific area; agricultural, ornamental, arborculture?
      Just a general statement of what my opinion is on pesticides: We’ve passed the population limits on removing all/every pesticide and going fully organic. Us humans have spread things to other lands that have 0 defenses to handle these pests. Our elms and ash have no chance here because of insects/pathogens from China. I believe in IPM, integrated pest management. This involves a lot of monitoring, knowing when to use/apply pesticides and not using pesticides until there is no choice.


      • My interest is in ensuring I am not using anything that is going to disturb the balance of the garden. I don’t want a show garden but it needs to be tidy in places whilst the rest will be a managed wild area. I don’t want things in the food chain that will harm inverts, birds or indeed us (including Lulu). I understand the need maybe for selective targeted use but I would need to be convinced why they should be used in my garden. I’d really like to hear more about IPM.


        • I did write a post about organic basics..
          IPM (Integrated pest management) starts with monitoring your plants. You don’t need to be a horticulturist to observe your plants and see if anything looks out of place. Once you observe something amiss, try to figure out the species of plant and what could be plaguing it.. Once identified, figure out if the issue is life-threatening, cosmetic or fatal. If treatable, know when the correct time of application of the treatment of choice. With insects, it’s usually when they are hatched, but young. Fungicides are prophylactic, they need to be applied before the pathogen makes contact.
          The correct application time is essential to IMP. Nature does not own a calendar or a watch. Just because a plant bloomed last year on May 10th, doesn’t mean it won’t wait until June 3rd this year. If the insect/pathogen isn’t vulnerable or isn’t even around, you’re wasting money on the treatment and/or spreading chemicals irresponsibly. Do you know your growing zone? If you’re 5A/B you’re in luck. A very dedicated man by the name of Donald Orton wrote a book called Coincide. In a nutshell, how the book works is it matches blooming times of common plants to treatment times of pests. For example, when forsythia blooms it’s time to treat for crabgrass.
          You can also make proactive choices in your landscaping. If you are going to have anything planted, go with a native or non-hybridized species. Diversify your inventory. Lawns are high maintenance*, allow them to go dormant in a hot summer and enlarge your perennial beds. Only use irrigation when necessary.
          As long as we blog, I’ll answer any questions you have. I’m not sure what is available to you over there, however we have Farm Extensions over here that are manned by Master Gardeners, educated to help you with these gardening issues.
          * Lawns can be less needy by aerating and dethatching (dethatch only if necessary), a good spring fertilizer not any more, spot treat weeds.


          • Very useful – thank you. I need to understand / research zones. I know the soil is heavy clay and acidic. My biggest challenge today is where to start. It looks overwhelming. I think most issues will be cosmetic. The lawn is in a dreadful state. I will aerate and dethatch in autumn. Much to think about 😜


            • Aerate lawn in spring/dethatch in fall. An overseeding of the lawn with an aerate followed by a super seed starter fertilizer (compost tea) would help the lawn. In spring. Now!
              I just took a look at your whole country and it’s in a range of zone 6 – 10. We’ll have to hone that down, let me know what you are. Search ‘hardiness zones’ and it will pop up.
              Clay is better than sandy, IMO. You could do a soil profile and see what you really really have for soil here. I’ll see if I have a post about that. .. That would be good to know before planting. Who told you it was acidic? A professional? Clay (soil type) you can see, pH has to be evaluated.
              If you want help ID-ing things, easiest way for me is if it’s in bloom. If not, no issue. Take a close up of the branching structure and leaf. That should do it!
              My attack list would be revolved around what nature will allow you to do:
              You shouldn’t be pruning trees now, so think of the lawn. Spring is great for that.
              You’ve not been there long enough to assess what’s growing there. Go assess!
              Dividing perennials is a spring job.
              Just look and observe this first year.
              If anything is dying, it will most likely not respond to treatment at this point, so waiting is not a problem.
              😨 No worries! Gardening is fun!


    • I wonder if it’s your soil? I assume your soil has a fair amount of sand in it that helps promote drainage and air getting to the decomposing fungi below. Possibly helping the nitrogen gas escape and not fertilizing the lawn. Hmmm.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s good drainage due to cliché not far down. I have very little grass. Most of the yard is kept natural with native shrubs and old elm, live oak, red oak, leaf mold that’s left in place. Lots of birds are happy here. I like the semi wild habitat besides the fact that I would need a full time person working and I don’t have that kind of money even if I wanted lots of lawn, etc.


  3. Me too, I will be on the lookout for them now! Very interesting post…Fairy rings…can they explain missing socks? I would like the kind that makes my yard greener. 😉


  4. Pingback: Monday Memories 5-9-2016 | Midwestern Plants

  5. Thanks! This explains sooo much. My shrooms are popping up where a dead tree had been removed last fall. After reading this, I’m just going to smile at them since they’re just doing their job 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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