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Fairy Ring Mushrooms

June’s full moon is the Strawberry Moon because that’s the one that wakes up the Wild Strawberries who are smaller, slyer and sweeter than Market Strawberries.

Wild Strawberries

I have an inconsistent relationship with Fairy Rings, those very green, nitrogen rich patches of lawn where Mushrooms grow in circles around vortexes, places where it’s dangerously easy to slip through to other realities. I know that the superstitions like wearing your hat backwards to protect you from inter-fairy-ring-soul-transmission are just rumors started by the fairies hoping to trick us into entering the faery realm so I usually manage to keep a safe distance.

The thing is, some years I take extra care to stay on the safe side of the rings, and some years I can’t help but head right inside as if pulled by a magnetic attraction that blocks my cautious thinking. When you go through a fairy ring its hard to know what’s changed. Humans are very adaptable. We accept our situations, and often don’t notice transcendental change.

Today the Wild Strawberries were growing inside a fairy ring and I tried to photograph them but they kept disappearing. They were delicious.

There’s been lots of talk this month at the Biophilium about control, planning, and intention vs wandering, trusting and going with the flow in the wild and in the studio. It’s hinged on questions of self identity, integrity and confidence. As an exhausted adventurer recovering from Spring migration, I’m struggling to hold on to control of my decisions, like the one to stay out of fairy rings, but the flow is taking me to nice spontaneous experiences like the sweetness of special Strawberries, so I’m deciding to trust myself to make the most of what ever shenanigans I find myself in.

Fairy Ring Mushroom Gills

This is the Fairy Ring Mushroom that grows in my lawn; the one that cuddles with the Wild Strawberries. It’s been there for years and fruits for months every summer. They are good to eat because they TASTE LIKE MAPLE SYRUP!! They are relatively easy to learn to identify, partly because their stems are so robust that it’s difficult to break them with your hands.

You can find Fairy Rings growing in lawns even when they are not fruiting by noticing how the grass grows. Most plants can’t access the nitrogen that makes up most of the atmosphere, and need another organism to ‘fix’ it, so they can use it to grow. The Fungi grow in roundish patches in the lawn expanding every year. The new growth around the outside edge is where the Fungus is digesting dead plant matter under ground and releasing loads of nitrogen into the soil. The grass around the outer edge picks up this nitrogen and grows faster, bushier and more healthily than the rest of the lawn. Lawn care cult leaders call this a ‘symptom of Fairy Ring disease’, but it’s a sign of a healthy ecosystem.

Grow trees not grass.

While planning a birding route on Gmaps I found these massive Fungi growing in an island sports field. (Compare with the size of the Baseball diamond). What I like so much about this is that we can’t see the Fungi, but we can see what they are doing to the grass, and so we know exactly where, how big and what shapes they are.

Fairy Rings as seen from space

The Fungi are growing in the soil around the grass roots. Each individual mycelial mass is expanding radially as it grows over the years. The outer ring of the mycelium is supplying more nitrogen to the grass and making it greener.

You can see where individual Fungi bumped into each other and fused together and became one individual. I mean. It looks to me like that’s what’s happening. If they were simply overlapping, or interlapping, weaving themselves through each other, sharing space but staying separate unique entities, wouldn’t we see the luscious green rings as ven diagrams as I do with fruiting fairy rings of different species that overlap and share territory?

I could be wrong. Maybe something different is happening where they connect. Maybe they are not making love. (Mushrooms have sex by fusing together, swapping DNA and staying connected forever) Maybe they are doing battle. Fighting for territory and resources, and where the battle is happening they are too stressed to do what ever grass enriching magic is happening along the rest of their boundaries.

On second thought, when one Fungal entity bumps into another they together would digest the nutrients in the fresh dead grass at the boundary between them and then have no new fresh food to turn to nitrogen. This would trigger fruiting, so I’d have to go back in the fall to see if mushrooms grow in a ven diagram showing distinct overlapping individuals or if they fruit only around the outside border as a new unified being.


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