Monday, 20 October 2014

How old is a fairy ring?

Hygrocybe pratensis. Photo John James
Could a fairy ring be the oldest living thing at the National Botanic Garden of Wales?
Last week, with the help of John James, Marie Evans and Michael Isaac, I measured a couple of partial fairy rings of meadow waxcap Hygrocybe pratensis on two meadows on Waun Las NNR.
The first one measured 5m 30cm - not bad for a meadow which until this year showed no previous mycological interest.
But in our Waxcap' meadow, the ring in the photo measured 8m 43cm in diameter.

Myself and Michael Isaacs in the waxcpa field measuring the
meadow waxcap fairy ring. Photo John James


I contacted Dr. Gareth Griffiths at Aberystwyth University to ask him how old it might be. A few years ago, Gareth conducted a six year experiment of meadow waxcap rings. From this, he suggests that they spread less than 2cm a year. That could (and this is VERY speculative) make this ring over 200 years old.
Should we start carrying out our own experiments on fairy rings in Carmarthenshire?

1 comment:

  1. This was done by several mycologists 'in times of yore'. There are 'tethered' rings -- mycorrhizal species so restricted by spread of root systems (may involve several trees of same species) and 'free' rings as yours in grassland. Need to get a system of marker pegs if done over years in open ground.
    I did some measuring of the flower 'Yellow Bird's-nest' and its essential fungal partner, Tricholoma cingulatum wich both formed rings (associated with salix) and these grew 10-20cm but not accurate as did not last many years in one place. A good project ot do.

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