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The name fairy ring comes from an old folk-tale. People once believed that mushrooms growing in a circle followed the path made by fairies dancing in a ring. Fairy rings are found in open grassy places and in forests.

In grass, the best known fairy ring fungus has the scientific name Marasmius oreades. The body of this fungus, its mycelium, is underground. It grows outward in a circle. As it grows, the mycelium uses up all of the nutrients in the soil, starving the grass. This is the reason a fairy ring has dead grass over the growing edge of the mycelium. Umbrella-shaped fruiting bodies, called mushrooms, spring up from just behind the outer edge of the mycelium.

Large rings are created when the older mycelium in the center finally exhausts the soil nutrients and dies. On the death of the central mycelium, the nutrients are returned to the soil and grass can grow again.

The living edge of the mycelium continues to grow outward. As it grows, it secretes chemicals into the ground ahead. These chemicals break down the organic matter, releasing nutrients so that the mycelium will have food when it reaches this area. For a brief time, the grass at the outer edge of the ring also benefits. The extra nutrients make the grass darker green, taller, and thicker than the rest of the lawn or pasture. This lush grass dies when the mycelium grows under it and steals the nutrients.

Fairy rings made by fungi like Marasmius oreades are called "free" rings. They will continue to grow outward until a barrier is reached. Sometimes the barrier is another fairy ring! Rings can grow into each other's territory and die as each reaches the other's "dead zone."

If there are no barriers, free rings can grow outward at up to 8 inches (20 cm) per year. They can reach a diameter of over 30 feet (10 m). One ring formed in France by the fungus Clitocybe geotropa is almost a half mile (600 m) in diameter. This ring is thought to be 700 years old.

Mycorrhizal fungi, which live in symbiotic partnership with trees, also form fairy rings. Their rings are called "tethered" rings. A tether is like a leash. The fungus and its mycorrhizal partner tree need each other to survive. The mycelium of these fungi always remains joined to the tree's roots. Roots are the "tether" that keeps the fairy rings of mycorrhizal fungi from growing too far from their tree

As most fungi are decomposers , starting from a focal point they start growing , when substrate is completly eleminated from focal point they continue to grow outward depending upon availability of food substrate .

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Q: Many fungi grow in rings. This was thought to be because it was were faries danced. What is a more reasonable explanation for why mushrooms or fungi grow in rings?
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a fairy fing is composed of the fruiting bodies of mushrooms that developed at the outer edges of a single mycelium. It is said that there are about 40 to 60 mushroom species which can grow in the fairy ring pattern. The best known is the edible Scotch bonnet (marasmius oreades), which is commonly known as the fairy ring champignon.One of the largest rings ever found is in France. Formed by Clitocybe geotropa, it is thought to be about 800 m in diameter and over 700 years old.On the http://www.answers.com/topic/south-downs in southern England,Calocybe gambosa has formed huge fairy rings which appear to be several hundred years old. TypesThere are two generally recognised types of fairy ring fungus. Those found in the woods are called tethered, because they are formed by mycorrhizal fungi living in http://www.answers.com/topic/commensalism with trees. Meadow fairy rings are called free, because they are not connected with other organisms. These mushrooms are saprotrophic. The effects on the grass depend on the type of fungus that is growing; when Calvatia cyathiformis is growing in the area grass will grow more abundantly; however, Clitocybe gigantea will cause the grass to wither.

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