Outdoors Column: Fairy Rings

Several inches of rain after months of drought have brought forth an interesting phenomenon know as fairy rings. These are mushrooms that grow in a circle or arches, usually in lawns or open pastures. We had a large number of big white mushrooms sprout in a twenty-foot circle around our burn barrel. I usually just ignore them, but we have a puppy that puts everything he sees in his mouth. I know it would only be a matter of time before he ran by and grabbed a mouthful. Anything that will carry rocks in his mouth and chew off low hanging branches would no doubt eat a mushroom, no matter how toxic it might be.


On Facebook, several people have been commenting on the mushrooms in fairy rings being poisonous. The saying is “if it is on the internet, it must be true” is not true. Actually, “facts” stated on Facebook are incorrect about ninety percent of the time.  I decided to do some research on the matter and find out for myself.


After a few hours of reading all types of professional literature about mushrooms, I concluded, the fairy ring in the yard may or may not contain poisonous mushrooms. There are approximately fifty types of mushrooms that will form fairy rings. Some are edible, and some will kill you. Some will just make you sick for a day or two. Our mushrooms were from six to twelve inches wide and about that tall. They closely resemble a few that were described in the literature as being delicious. They also look a lot like a type known as the vomiter mushroom. The name alone was enough to convince me, I do not know enough about fungi identification to take the chance. A quote from one doctor stated if a person is not sure if a mushroom is safe to eat and they insist on trying it anyway, they should do so early in the morning. This way, the doctor does not get called out to the emergency room in the middle of the night. It sounds like a good system for the doctor, but I try to avoid visits to the emergency room at any time of the day or night.



I put on disposable gloves and picked several dozen mushrooms. They looked and smelled good, but not good enough to tempt me into frying up a bunch. I took them far away from the house to the edge of the pasture and disposed of them in a pile. In a day or two, I will go back and see if any wildlife has eaten them. If the pile is gone and I see no dead or vomiting deer or raccoons, it will be safe to assume the mushrooms were edible. Wildlife rarely eat poisonous things.


For now, the fairy ring is gone. It may grow back yet again this year, in which case, I will again dispose of them. I am somewhat of a coward. If morel mushrooms would grow in our yard in a big fairly ring, we would have something to celebrate. I am sure this would never happen. It would make mushrooming too easy.