You're walking outside when you stumble upon mushrooms growing in a ring shape. Now you are wondering why these fungi grow in such a manner. Do all mushrooms grow this way?
You are not alone if you are amazed by how mushrooms grow in circles. In fact, this pattern, also known as fairy and witches' rings, has fascinated people worldwide. In fact, fairy rings have figured prominently in countless folklore.
However, it is worthwhile to point out that not all mushrooms grow in circles. In this blog post, you will learn more about why some mushroom species grow this way as well as a few fascinating facts about fairy rings.
What causes mushrooms to grow in a circular pattern?
To understand the underlying reason why some mushrooms grow in a circle, it is important to have some understanding of mushroom anatomy.
To simplify the explanation, imagine mushrooms as having two parts. First, you have the visible part, the one people usually associate with mushrooms. And then you have the mycelium which is the part of mushrooms that is hidden beneath the ground.
With a mushroom ring, the mycelium grows in a single area, pushing out fruiting bodies in a ring shape. Eventually, the mycelium will exhaust the nutrients at its starting point. Now, to get more access to more nutrients, it will begin to widen the circle.
The fairy ring will continue to grow wider in search of food. The outer edge never grows inward or crosses other mushrooms because the nutrients in those areas have been depleted. In short, fairy rings always grow outwards.
Are fairy rings common?
Fairy rings are not rare. But they aren't common.
In order for mushrooms to grow in circles, there are a few factors that need to come into place. These include soil composition and nutrition and the presence of obstructions beneath the ground.
Typically, you will find a mushroom growing in a ring shape in an area that is well-composed and even. This is why many mushroom rings are found on lawns.
And even if you do not actually see mushrooms growing in circles, the mycelium spreads beneath the ground.
Do All Mushroom Species Grow in Circles?
Not all mushroom species grow in a circular pattern. Although theoretically, all mushrooms can grow in a circular pattern, mycologists say that only around 60 species develop into fairy rings.
The most popular of these is the scotch bonnet or the fairy ring mushroom, an edible mushroom. The fairy ring mushroom has a symbiotic relationship with the grass growing alongside it, enabling the grass to grow greener.
Other mushrooms that grow in a circular pattern as the edible wood blewit, poisonous toadstool, poisonous death cap, matsutake mushroom, purple-spored puffball, and green-spored parasol.
There are many other mushrooms that grow in a circle pattern. As such, mycologists advise mushroom foragers to avoid identifying mushrooms based on growth patterns.
Fairy Ring Signs
What are the signs that you are looking at a fairy ring?
One of the first and most obvious signs that you are looking at a fairy ring is the circular growth pattern of the mushrooms. However, the pattern can be hard to spot because of the surrounding grass.
Sometimes, instead of seeing mushrooms growing in circles, you will see grass growing in a circular pattern. In some cases, the grass may be lush while in other instances, the grass may be dead. That depends largely on the type of mushroom.
If the grass looks like it is growing well, it means that the mycelium found beneath the grown is breaking down the organic matter in the soil and releasing nitrogen. Nitrogen is one of the key nutrients that plants, including grass, need for optimal growth.
On the other hand, if you have found dead grass growing in a ring shape, it means that you have found the necrotic zone. It simply means that the place where you found the fairy ring is now devoid of nutrients, making it hard for the grass and other nearby plants to survive and grow.
Types of Fairy Rings
There are two basic types of fairy rings, free and tethered rings.
A free ring refers to mushrooms that grow free from any connection to an organism. This type of fairy ring is usually found growing in grassy areas like lawns and meadows and usually feeds on dying or decaying organic matter.
Tethered fairy rings, on the other hand, are commonly found in forests where they are attached to trees. This type of mushroom ring usually has one or more trees growing in the center.
The mushrooms and the nearby trees have a symbiotic relationship. The roots of the trees provide the mushrooms with sugar while the fungi enable the tree roots better access to moisture and nutrients.
Removing Fairy Rigns from Your Lawn
While fairy rings aren't necessarily harmful, they can make lawns look unsightly. As such, some homeowners get rid of them. But how exactly do you do that?
Although there are many mushroom species that grow in a circle pattern, the most common one that can be found growing on lawns is the fungus known as Maramius oreades. This fungus grows in a variety of areas but they prefer soils that contain undecomposed organic matter.
As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure. If you want to prevent fairy rings from growing on your lawn, it is imperative to invest ample time and effort toward proper lawn care.
Removing isn't an exact science. There are different ways you can try to remove a fairy ring from your lawn but each of these method don't always work. One thing is for certain - avoid using fungicides. These chemicals can't remove fairy rings.
You can try poking holes on the ground using tools you can readily find in your home like a screwdriver or a garden fork. Make sure that each hole is about one to eight inches deep and the holes should be spaced about four to six inches apart. The holes will make it easier for water and fertilizer to reach the mycelium.
You can also try creating a mixture of a gallon of water and one teaspoon of liquid dish detergent. Spray this mixture on the affected area before irrigating your lawn. The mycelium hates moisture and wet weather. Spraying the mixture enables the soil to soak in more water.
For a month, irrigate the area infested with the fairy ring daily. After that, apply a nitrogen fertilizer on the affected area to hasten the growth of the grass and cover the fairy ring.
Fairy Ring Folklore
Fairy rings figure prominently in various tales, especially in Europe.
In Germany, for example, fairy rings are called witches' rings, stemming from the old belief that mushrooms growing in a circular pattern indicate that the place is where witches gather for their rituals.
On the other hand, the Dutch believe that fairy rings are areas where the Devil churns milk. Austrians say that fairy rings are the creation of dragons.
The English and Celts have many tales surrounding fairy rings. But one common thread about these tales is that fairy rings are places where elves and fairies dance. There is an old belief that people shouldn't enter these rings unless they want to be punished for their intrusion.
Even the French, Scandinavians, and Filipinos have similar tales surrounding fairy rings and fairies.
Identifying Magic Mushrooms
Magic mushrooms offer a variety of benefits, making them appealing to foragers. But whether you are hunting for edible or magic mushrooms, it is critical to learn how to distinguish them from poisonous mushrooms.
One useful trick that foragers use to identify edible fungi from poisonous ones is to observe how these mushrooms grow. However, many seasoned foragers and mycologists caution against using the mushroom ring as an indicator of whether a particular mushroom is safe for consumption or not.
Instead of using the mushroom ring as an indicator of safety, there are a few things that you should watch out for if you are hunting for magic mushrooms.
Where to find shrooms
Magic mushrooms can be found in a variety of substrates and habitats. To make matters more complicated, these mushrooms also have a diverse range of features.
To make things less complicated, it is a good idea to learn where psilocybin mushrooms typically grow. Practically all areas in the world, with the exception of Antarctica. Some shroom species are confined to a handful of countries while others are spread across the globe.
If you are foraging for mushrooms, it is a good idea to learn where magic mushroom species can be typically found. This will help eliminate some poisonous mushrooms from your foraging list.
Shroom Climate Zones
The next thing that you need to hone in on is to identify the preferred climate of the magic mushrooms you want to forage. Most magic mushrooms can only be found in a specific climate zone. In countries like the United States, different climate zones may exist.
Psilocybe cubensis, for example, is typically found in the grasslands in humid tropical and subtropical climates. Psilocybe mexicana, on the other hand, prefers wet and dry climates like those in Southern and Central America.
Magic mushrooms can be classified into three basic categories based on their preferred habitats.
Coprophilous mushrooms grow that grow near or around animal feces. Lignicolous mushrooms, on the other hand, are usually found growing on plant materials. Finally, there are magic mushrooms that prefer growing on decomposed organic matter.
Another important thing to bear in mind when foraging mushrooms is the season. Unless you live in a tropical region, you should schedule mushroom foraging during autumn.
Mushrooms grow all year round in tropical and subtropical regions if there are sufficient nutrients. In countries with four seasons, most mushrooms grow between autumn and winter, and occasionally, during spring.
Magic mushrooms typically start pinning during autumn and wet periods when they have more access to moisture.
Blue bruising is one of the distinguishing characteristics of magic mushrooms. Until recently, this characteristic has baffled scientists. Now, experts know the underlying reason - the oxidization of psilocin, one of the active components of shrooms.
The discoloration can vary from one species to another. Some magic mushrooms have a more intense discoloration, while in others, the blue bruising is faint. The appearance of blue bruises is instantaneous in some species while in others, the bruising can take some time to appear.
Common physical traits
While magic mushrooms vary in their physical characteristics, they do share a few common traits.
For example, the mycelium of magic mushrooms is found beneath the ground, feeding the colony by spreading underground. Beneath the ground, the mycelium spreads, creating a spiderweb-like structure.
The cap of all psilocybin mushrooms has a smooth and sticky texture. Once the mushroom begins to dry out, the color of the cap changes. Some magic mushroom caps have a brown color while in others, the caps can have a yellow or white hue.
The primary role of mushroom stems is to support and prop the caps, enabling the fungi to spread as many spores as possible. When foraging for mushrooms, pay attention to the texture of the stems. In magic mushrooms, the stems are usually tough and fibrous. While holding the stem of a magic mushroom, it shouldn't snap.
Getting prints from mushroom spores is a valuable tool for mushroom identification. Psilocybin mushrooms usually have purple-black spores, although, in some species, the color may be browner.
Magic mushrooms also have partial veils that run from the stem, covering the cap. As the mushroom grows, the partial veil will slowly peel off and disintegrate. In some cases, the partial veil creates a ring located around the stem. The partial veil may sometimes look speckled due to the spores attached to it. The partial veil may sometimes create an annulus as it tears apart. The annulus provides protection to the gills as the mushroom grows.
Magic Mushrooms vs. Poisonous Mushrooms
When foraging mushrooms, practice due caution. Distinguishing between poisonous, edible, and magic mushrooms can be quite tricky because many mushroom species look alike. If you fail to bear this critical detail in mind, you might suffer from poisoning. Mushroom poisoning can cause stomach issues, organ damage, and in some instances, death.
If you are hunting for magic mushrooms, there are certain things that you should look for. For starters, take note if the mushrooms you are looking at have blue bruising. Psilocybin mushrooms are known to bruise blue. However, the time it takes for the bruises will vary from one species to another.
Other important things to note are the color of the spores, growth pattern, and substrate. If you have even the smallest amount of doubt, do not attempt to ingest the mushrooms you found. Instead, get expert help, whether online or offline. At the end of the day, it is better to miss out on getting free magic mushrooms rather than get poisoned by an unknown mushroom species.
Knowing and Avoiding Mushroom Foraging Risks
Whether you are hunting for edible or magic mushrooms, one of the greatest risks that you'll face is picking poisonous mushrooms.
But apart from that, there are other things that you should watch out for. For starters, it is a good idea to know beforehand whether you are allowed to pick mushrooms from the area where you located them. Avoid trespassing on private property. Also, take note that in some public parks, picking mushrooms is not allowed.
Personal safety is also a major concern when hunting for mushrooms, especially if you are heading out to an unfamiliar area. If you are foraging by yourself, make sure that people are aware of where you are venturing out. Be sure that you dress for the occasion and prepare for inclement weather. Carry a first aid kit and a GPS tracker with you.
One final risk that you need to be aware of is the condition known as wood lover paralysis or WLP. The condition occurs when ingesting psilocybin mushrooms growing on wood. WLP is characterized by temporary loss of strength and muscle control that can last for 24 to 48 hours.
WLP is not the same as the effects of consuming a large dose of magic mushrooms. WLP can occur even if you ingest a small dose. Fortunately, the effects vanish after a day or two. However, the experience can be daunting, especially for the uninitiated.
To avoid potential risks, consider expanding your knowledge of magic mushrooms by joining online and offline groups and investing in the latest edition of a mushroom field guide. Leverage the knowledge and experience of mycologists and seasoned mushroom hunters to avoid all if not most of the aforementioned risks. Mushroom foraging can be a worthwhile hobby if you know how to protect yourself from the diverse array of risks mentioned here. After all, you cannot be too careful, especially when dealing with an unknown mushroom species.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is magic mushroom microdosing?
Microdosing is the practice of ingesting psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms at lower doses. This allows people to enjoy the benefits of shrooms without unwanted side effects like hallucinations.
Can you develop a tolerance for shrooms?
Magic mushrooms aren't addictive. However, the more you use them, the more likely you will develop a tolerance. When this happens, you will need to up your dosage of shrooms to get the effects you are after.
How long do mushrooms stay in your system?
The effects of magic mushrooms can last between six to 12 hours. Shrooms have an average half-life of 50 minutes. This means that it can take anywhere between five to six half-lives before most of the psilocybin in your body is excreted.
Can you flush magic mushrooms from your system?
It is possible to hasten the elimination of psilocybin from your body by increasing your water intake. However, the difference is barely perceptible. If you are worried that a drug test can detect shrooms in your body, the best way to avoid such is to stop using magic mushrooms until the drug test has been conducted.
How long does it take for magic mushrooms to work?
It takes between 20 to 40 minutes after ingestion before you feel the effects of magic mushrooms. Around this time, your body has converted psilocybin into psilocin. You will feel the peak of the effects at about one and a half to two hours after taking mushrooms. Around the six-hour mark, you should have experienced most of the effects.