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When walking through the woods or a forest, have you ever noticed intriguing rings of mushrooms? You may have found yourself curious about how they managed to grow in this interesting pattern but carried on walking through the woodlands. Well, those mushroom circles are known as Fairy Circles or Fairy Rings. In a previous article, we dove into the myth behind fairy circles, but now let’s take a look at the science behind them.
These mystical formations tell an exciting story. According to European folklore, it’s believed these circles were where fairies and supernatural beings like elves, witches, and more would dwell. The associated myth of these rings is that these magical creatures would dance and celebrate within the mushroom rings’ limits. If a human were ever to enter their Fairy Ring, the consequences could range from inconvenient to severe. One version of the story goes that humans who entered would be punished by being forced to dance to the point they collapses from exhaustion.
Fairy Rings, also known as Witches’ Rings in Germany, can vary in size. Their origin stories and meanings tend to change according to cultures, too. It’s believed they could be products of shooting stars, or lightning strikes, or witchcraft. In Australia, they thought they were formed by dragons who would project fire on the forest floor. In Welsh folklore, these circles are known for improving fertility.
Some cultures believe that fairy circles could be the portal to an alternate supernatural world. They also have been known to signify fairy villages, where they use the mushrooms as their dining table. Collectively, the myths conclude that you should not step into the circle. Although fairy ring mythology permeates many different cultures and time periods, there is a fairly simple scientific explanation for their existence. The science doesn’t have anything to say about what happens to humans who step inside them, or their connections to other, stranger worlds, but it can tell us how they form.
There is a scientific explanation for the magical phenomenon of Fairy Circles. While their appearance on lawns, in gardens, in the first and other natural landscapes seem mysterious and inexplicable, there’s a reason why these mushroom shapes take form.
Fairy reigns develop when a mushroom spore falls into one spot on a generally flat natural surface. As the spore degrades into the soil, it grows the mycelium, the spiraling roots that will grow underground. These mycelium act as a message-sending network that will either attach to surrounding plants or lead to other mushrooms’ growth at their ends. The network threads are called hyphae, which promote the growth of surrounding mushroom caps, developing their mycelium for a thorough network connection of mushrooms.
These formations can expand in size as more mushrooms are added to the network or as the winding hyphae grow increasingly longer. One Fairy Circle in Belfort, France, has been growing for centuries with a 2,000ft diameter.
So if you encounter a Fairy Circle, remark on the magic of nature’s ecological powers. Have some fun imagining a colony of mythical creatures dancing to their heart’s content within the ring’s limits.
Whatever you do, however, do not step inside the Fairy Circle.