Friday is Natural History Day in the River Houses, and this Friday it certainly looks like fall fungi season has arrived! A clump of lovely orange Amanitas has popped up just across the street, and at the local riverside park I’ve been watching three small fairy rings develop on the lawn.
Fairy rings are one of the most delightful fungal formations you can come across. Do you have any in your homeschool neighborhood? Why not photograph and measure them and see if you can track their growth from year to year.
The little natural history lesson that fairy rings offer is simple. When you see a mushroom on a lawn (for example), you’re only seeing a small part of a much larger organism (like seeing only a flower and not the rest of the plant that the flower is attached to). Most of the mushroom’s “body” exists as fibrous strands called mycelium growing in the soil. When a fungal spore lands on the ground and germinates, it begins to grow outward in all directions, forming a circular mycelial mat that gets larger every year. Mushrooms — the fruiting bodies of the fungus, corresponding loosely to the flowers of a flowering plant — form around the growing edge of this circular mat whenever the environmental conditions are right (most often in the damp fall).
Not all species of fungi form fairy rings, but quite a few do. They are most easily seen on lawns, although they can be found in wooded areas as well. There is a lot of mythology associated with fairy rings, as the name suggests — that might be a good topic to investigate on your next visit to the library! 😊
What natural discoveries have you made in your homeschool lately? 😊