As part of the very first Wales Fungus Day – which is being held at the National Botanic Garden on Sunday October 14th –  there is a nationwide search for Wales’ largest fairy ring.

Organiser Bruce Langridge is calling on keen-eyed dog walkers, ramblers, gardeners and park rangers to let him know about fairy rings they come across.

Says Bruce: “You might see one in your local park, meadow, wood or even your own garden. Just let me know how wide you think it is – photographing or having a stab at identifying the mushroom would be a nice bonus. We want to keep a rolling record of all finds in the run-up to Wales Fungus Day and, hopefully, be able to announce the country’s biggest known fairy ring.”

So what is a fairy ring?

Put most simply: it is a visible circle or arc of fruiting mushrooms. There are around 60 species that are known to do this and some rings could be hundreds of years old. Rings form for different reasons.

Typically, this is the result of a fungal spore being blown into a field where it germinates. Its body of fine filaments, known as the mycelium, spreads out from the centre in a circular pattern, and fruit bodies appear above the ground near the edge of this spread. Over the years, this circle gets bigger and bigger.

Other rings appear in woods or around trees and shrubs. Here, the mushrooms are feeding off the roots of trees, and their mycelium spread outwards, forming a ring around the tree or shrub. Here are some great fairy rings that we’ve been told about so far.

So what can YOU do?

Well, if you come across a fairy ring this Autumn, could you tell us about it? We’d like to know where it is, what its diameter is and whether it is a full circle (sometimes only arcs of mushrooms are visible). If you’re able, the fungi species name would be useful as would the name of a tree or shrub that you think the fairy ring might be associated with. If you’re unsure about naming, send us a photograph of an individual fruiting body and the tree or shrub. We’d also love to see photos of the entire ring or arc but this is notoriously hard to take as most of us don’t walk around with a pair of ladders!!

It’s easiest if you could email bruce.langridge@gardenofwales.org.uk  or you could send your records to Bruce Langridge, National Botanic Garden of Wales, Llanarthne SA32 8HG.

If you live in the Gwent area and can’t make it down to the Garden on the 14th October, you could instead join Gwent Fungus Group members on an informal wander around Gwent Wildlife Trust’s Pentwyn Farm Nature Reserve (Penalllt, nr Monmouth) to look for the site’s largest fairy ring. Meet at 2pm at the Medieval Barn. There will be a small exhibition of photos and specimens, ‘name that fungus’ quiz, plus Gwent Fungus Group members will be on hand to help identi-fy any fungi you’ve seen – bring samples or photos with you. Directions at www.gwentwildlife.org/reserves/Pentwyn