By GEORGE ROBERTSON, M.D.
Have you noticed lately the peculiar white circles in many of the yards and fields along the road?
Since we have had such a wet season, the conditions are perfect for the growth of all kinds of fungus and the ones making the white lines and circles are mushrooms or toadstools that are faster growing than the grass and therefore display their white to yellow colors above the green.
When I was growing up, I asked my parents what the strange circles were and was told that they were fairy rings. The myth is that at night elves, leprechauns and fairies would have a party in your yard and dance in the circle marked the next day by the fast-growing white fungus.
I presume that these mushrooms aren’t the kind you can’t eat and are poisonous because I saw a fairy ring in goat pen and everything around them had been eaten except the toadstools. Since goats eat almost anything, I took it to mean that the white fungus was not edible.
When I looked it up on the Internet, there is a variety that is edible that grows in a ring but is hard to distinguish from the poisonous relative. It is too bad that this is the case since the growth of these plants is so widespread that we could feed the whole county with them.
The reason for the circular pattern of growth is supposedly because of a narrow range of moisture and nutrients that often find a perfect mix around an old stump or rotting wood fence. This sometimes leaves a trail of white stalks in a straight line rather than a circle. And I saw a large semicircle on the side of the hill that I presume was a fairy amphitheater.
Editor’s Note: Robertson is a physician with Family Medical Associates, PC, in Lebanon.