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Fairy Ring of Mushrooms


Part of the fairy ring

On our front lawn we had a huge fairy ring of mushrooms.  They start off as white buttons and then grow huge, flatten out, and turn brown.  This is the story of how we tried to identify them and failed… at least once.

According to my little Golden Guidebook to Non-Flowering Plants, they could belong to the genus Amanita.  So we followed the key for the Amanitas at MushroomExpert.Com

I was a bit nervous, knowing that the genus Amanita contain some of the most poisonous mushrooms, and I didn’t want to touch them at all, so all of this was very hands-off.  

Baby mushroom, taken by Mr. 15

I looked for a sack at the bottom of the stem.  Although we didn’t dig any stems up carefully with a pocketknife as recommended, I did find one that had been knocked over by the dogs and I could see a bit of a sack or casing.  It’s not very evident on the photo below.  


Gills and stems of mature mushrooms

The next step is to look for a ring on the stem, and as you can see, there seems to be one.  

The ring on the stem is clearly visible. Photo by Mr. 15.

The next step is to look at the color of the cap, which is, obviously, white until it gets old. 

 According to the key, it seems that our mushrooms are Destroying Angels, but if you go to a website about these deadly mushrooms, you’ll see that they have white, not brown, gills!  Destroying Angels also have characteristic white spores, but there’s no way any one in this family is going to pick up one of those mushrooms to make a spore print!  So this is probably NOT a Destroying Angel after all.  Likely we misinterpreted the little Golden Guidebook. 

Well, what could it be?  We ignored the little Golden Guidebook and checked MushroomExpert.Com directly. Following their key (but guessing that the spore color is the same as the gills, since we’re not touching it!), the mushrooms seem to belong to the genus Agaricus, some of which are edible. 

The old mushrooms turn dark

 This experience once again reminded me that mushroom identification is a very, very tricky process for novices like us.   It also reminded me of the mushroom expert we once talked to; mushrooms can be so poisonous that when she’s outside she only touches them with one hand, leaving the other one uncontaminated in case she needs to touch her face.   


Be that as it may, this is most likely a mushroom from the Agaricus genus, but there’s no way I’m going to trust my identification, and it’s hopeless for us to look for a species.  If you can identify it from the photos, please leave a comment.  


This tentatively identified mushroom is our family’s second entry in the 100-Species Challenge.   Photos were taken in the last week of September and the first week of October.

Thanks to my son Mr. 15 for the two excellent photos.


  1. Nancy says:

    Dear Annie Kate,
    What a fun journey you have had trying to identify the mushrooms! I do hope you get to the bottom of it. I’ll be honest with you, I was hoping to see a picture of the actual fairy ring. After all, that is where the magic is at, isn’t it?
    Thanks for letting me know you posted this – I really appreciate it!
    Ring true,

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Yes, that would have been a great idea. Trouble is, different parts of the fairy ring matured at different times, and the brown old ones are very hard to see. But, yes, a complete fairy ring is so beautiful!

      Annie Kate

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