|Sunset at Mystical Horizons, North Dakota. Photo courtesy WikiCommons.|
I didn't know that the fairy ring mushrooms would be today's fungal representative when I discovered the "Mystical Horizons" modern-day Stonehenge. On a stroll thru the Wikimedia Commons under the heading "North Dakota," I learned that there is a "21st Century Stonehenge" on North Dakota Highway 43 near the Manitoba border. Apparently, it is a working solar calendar constructed of stone & cement that marks the solstices & equinoxes. It also includes a sundial & a "North Star Polaris Sighting Tube." Hmm... so many road trips, so little gasoline...
It was later that I discovered that there is much talk of the fairy ring mushrooms in North Dakota. So much so that the North Dakota State University Extension Service issued a totally fascinating article in the "Beef Talk" column of their Extension Service News entitled: Grass and Fairy Rings Create Opportunities. To be honest, what I found most intriguing about the article was not the mushrooms, but the voice. Here we have an article by A "Beef Specialist" written for a target audience of (I can only assume) colleagues, cattle ranchers & other agricultural types which recommends this:
"For today, simply appreciate what the fairy ring is trying to tell you. The fairy ring is telling you there is a lot to this world we don’t see or understand. However, the important part is to appreciate what we have and, for now, let the tag fairies enjoy their party. The tag fairies don’t know how they are going to get all these cattle tagged, either, but they do know how to enjoy life."
Whaaa? I cannot express how much joy I get from this! I walked away from a career in science twenty years ago because using a voice like this would get you laughed out of the building with a big "unscientific" sticker on your forehead. The author, to her(?) credit does a bang-up job of explaining the bio/ecology of fairy rings & their benefit to grassland ecosystems while maintaining this terrific voice. The article also offered up the cutest little North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association (NAIS) approved graphic (see right). Does it get any better?
Now that I have established that there are plenty of fairy rings in North Dakota (in a highly roundabout manner), I offer a wee bit of background. There are approximately 60 species of mushrooms that can be found growing in circular or arc-shaped group formations called fairy rings or alternately, fairy circle, elf circle, elf ring or pixie ring. These fairy rings, much like trees, can be "aged" by measuring their annual rate of growth. It turns out that some of the large Midwestern fairy rings are thought to be between 400-500 years old. Jeepers! Now, while some fairy ring mushrooms live in a commensal relationship with trees, others are saprophytic & if you have been following my plan, you know the saprophytes are key.
Rings, circles, decomposition, transformation... Somewhere in the back of my memory there is a song about circles & change, but I can't seem to grab hold of it. So I'll take a line from a Pagan standard:
As We Walk The Circle Round, Change And Transform...
Richard Doyle, Fairy Rings and Toadstools @ WikiCommons
All season I visited them, hoping they might make a complete circle but alas, not this time.
Perhaps next year.
Perhaps next year.