Smoky Mountain Fairy Rings

Smoky Mountain fairy rings are cool!

Smoky Mountain fairy rings are cool!

Smoky Mountain Fairy Rings. Finding a Smoky Mountain fairy ring is always a special event! Last year was one of the wettest on record, more than 13 inches of rainfall above the norm.  And one of the consequences of so much rain is mushrooms.  As you hike through fields and woods this year, you may notice an arc or circle of mushrooms.  In grassy areas you may also see circles of either dead grass or exceptionally green grass.  All of these are fairy rings!

The visible rings are fascinating and have been the subject of mythical lore from ancient times.  In fact, it’s still fun to imagine a midnight meeting of fairies, gathered in their circle beneath a waxing moon to dance and sing while other sprites watch from their seats on the surrounding mushrooms.  But the real magic is taking place underground.

Purple puffball mushroom. Photo credit: fichas micrologicas

Purple puffball mushroom. Photo credit: fichas micrologicas

Fairy circles start with a few mushroom spores being naturally deposited in a given area, usually by rainfall or by an animal brushing against a mature mushroom.  When conditions are favorable (think wet weather, think 2018), the spores germinate to form mycelia (the mushroom equivalent of roots).  The mycelia emit enzymes that dissolve the nutrients in the soil so that the mycelia network can absorb them and grow. As the nutrients and moisture are used up around the original spot of germination, the mycelia move outward to form a circle.  The resulting lack of nutrients can cause the vegetation within the circle to die.  This happens within the circle of the flat-topped mushroom called the giant funnel (Leucopaxillus giganteus).  But the enzymes of another mushroom, the purple puffball (Calcatia cyathiformis), actually releases nitrogen into the soil, creating a circle of richer, faster growing grass.  Little wonder that legends about these fairy circles variously attribute both good and bad luck to their appearance!

When a fairy ring appears in the lawn you’ve spent so much time and money to develop, you may not care all that much about moonlit midnight dances; you want to be rid of it.  Treatment, however, can be difficult.  If you have a brown circle, try hand watering the area and applying a lawn fertilizer.  If the circle is green, try applying nitrogen to the entire area to mask the circle. But the best strategy is prevention. Most fairy circles develop in lawns because of thatch build up.  Annual removal of thatch followed by soil aeriation, typically done in the early spring, are the best preventative actions.

But when you find fairy circles in our meadows, fields, and forests—just enjoy them; the fairies do! A few of our favorite places to find fairy rings in the Smoky Mountains are Cades Cove, Cataloochee, and Oconaluftee.

HeySmokies.com is honored to have Carl Parsons as a contributing writer. Carl is Deputy Editor for Storyteller Magazine, a member of the Writers’ Guild of Sevier County, TN, and a Tennessee Master Gardener.

 

Source material credit: Fairy rings

 

More Hey Smokies Features:

Smoky Mountains Fall Red Beauty Mountain Ash!
Smoky Mountains Fall Red Beauty Mountain Ash!...
Smoky Mountains Fall Red Beauty Mountain Ash! Who wouldn’t love a beautiful ornamental tree, not too large or too small, with an abundance of [Read More >>]
Laurel Falls Trailhead Closure
Laurel Falls Trailhead Closure...
Laurel Falls Trail Closure Laurel Falls Trailhead closure will begin Monday, November 7, 2022 and end Thursday, November 17, 2022. A geotech[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Ghost Stories
Smoky Mountain Ghost Stories...
Smoky Mountain Ghost Stories. The Smoky Mountain region is steeped in strange and unexplainable occurrences that some say are supernatural. We h[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Southern Mac And Cheese Recipe
Smoky Mountain Southern Mac And Cheese Recipe...
Smoky Mountain Southern Mac And Cheese Recipe is the perfect side dish for any meal and sometimes it is a great meal all by itself. All you ne[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Hunters Full Moon
Smoky Mountain Hunters Full Moon...
Smoky mountain full hunters moon HeySmokies.com Smoky Mountain Full Hunters Moon. Most of the time, the full moon isn’t completely full. We [Read More >>]
Take a Scenic Drive on Moonshiner 28 near the Great Smoky Mountains!
Take a Scenic Drive on Moonshiner 28 near the Great Smoky Mountains!...
Take a Scenic Drive on Moonshiner 28 near the Great Smoky Mountains! Perhaps no image is more stereotypical of the rural South than that of the [Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Elk Rut
Smoky Mountain Elk Rut...
Love is in the air for Smoky Mountain Elk. Smoky Mountain Elk Rut is on. The call of the wild echoes in the Smokies as Bull Elks seek mates.[Read More >>]
10 Essentials for Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains
10 Essentials for Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains...
10 Essentials for Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains. Packing the 10 Essentials for Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains is like your insurance [Read More >>]
All You Need to Know About Snakes in the Smoky Mountains
All You Need to Know About Snakes in the Smoky Mountains...
Yes, there are 23 species of snakes found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but only 2 of them are poisonous; so don't let that keep y[Read More >>]
Giant Hogweed Invades Smoky Mountain Region
Giant Hogweed Invades Smoky Mountain Region...
Giant Hogweed Invades Smoky Mountain Region. Giant Hogweed looms large on it's march toward the Smokies. Giant Hogweed can reach up to 20-f[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Southern Fried Green Tomato Recipe
Smoky Mountain Southern Fried Green Tomato Recipe...
Smoky Mountain Southern Fried Green Tomato Recipe is the perfect solution to all the extra tomatoes from your garden. The HeySmokies.com culinar[Read More >>]
The Big Creek Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Big Creek Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park...
Big Creek ranger district is found on the eastern edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a small campground for 12 sites for tents onl[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Parsons Branch Road Opens
Smoky Mountain Parsons Branch Road Opens...
Smoky Mountain Parsons Branch Road Opens after a six year closure. GSMNP officials celebrated the reopening of Parson Branch Road with a ri[Read More >>]
Great Smoky Mountains  Seeks Help Identifying Historic Homesites
Great Smoky Mountains Seeks Help Identifying Historic Homesites...
Dan Lawson place is one of the many historic homesites preserved in the Smoky Mountains. Great Smoky Mountains Seeks Help Identifying Histor[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Volunteers Needed
Smoky Mountain Volunteers Needed...
Ramsey Cascades in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the tallest waterfalls accessible by trail in the park! Smoky Mountain Volu[Read More >>]
Big Creek Trail Closure
Big Creek Trail Closure...
Big Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park Big Creek trail closure. A temporary, weekday closure of Big Creek Trail to repair the popula[Read More >>]
Cades Cove Car Ban
Cades Cove Car Ban...
Cades Cove car ban is under way. Cades Cove Car Ban begins May 4, 2022 through September 28, 2022.  Cove visitors are encouraged t[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Tamale Recipe
Smoky Mountain Tamale Recipe...
Smoky Mountain Tamale recipe. Homemade tamales are always a Smoky Mountain special event! Did you know that the Smoky Mountains are on the [Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Dates Announced
Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Dates Announced...
Smoky Mountain synchronous firefly dates announced. Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Dates Announced. Great Smoky Mountains National Park [Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Trail Volunteers Needed
Smoky Mountain Trail Volunteers Needed...
Smoky Mountain Trail Volunteers Needed. GSMNP is recruiting volunteers to adopt a trail along the 848 miles of maintained trails across the[Read More >>]