The Norman Transcript


August 25, 2013

Fairy rings, toadstools and toxic mushroom questions answered

NORMAN — It’s time we admitted it. We want to believe — in fairies, in magic, in possibilities of unseen but well-imagined wonders.

There’s a plethora of mushrooms sprouting up all over town this year, and the imagination can send even the most serious adults back to a state of childlike awe.

“There’s actually a fairy ring on a vacant lot — it’s a ring of white mushrooms,” said Horticulture Educator Tracey Payton Miller with the OSU Extension Office.

Miller said the fairy ring is caused by a buildup of deteriorating organic matter. The high levels of moisture in the soil and the warm temperatures are causing the naturally occurring phenomenon of an uncommonly high number of fungi to spring up seemingly overnight.

Fungi comprise a kingdom of organisms separate from plants, animals and bacteria. Mushrooms and mold both fall into the fungi kingdom.

Most fungi are so small that we never see them, but some mushrooms can be huge. The large, white mushrooms in Miller’s fairy ring are six to nine inches tall, with the largest having a parasol-like cap with an 8-inch diameter.

As a horticulture educator, Miller can explain the scientific facts behind mushrooms, toadstools and all their fungi kin, but she’s not so grown up she doesn’t get the fun side.

“Fairy rings are kind of mystical and cool,” Miller said.

There is no difference between a mushroom and a toadstool, though often, people refer to toxic mushrooms as toadstools. Even the name “mushroom” isn’t strictly scientific and really refers to the cultivated white, button mushroom.

Mushrooms come in many sizes, and those in Norman yards right now vary from tiny black or tan ones to medium brown ones to large white ones.

Edible mushrooms have health benefits and can be a good source of B vitamins. There is some evidence that fresh crimini mushrooms may even have B12, a vitamin thought to only be available through meat rather than vegetative food sources.

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