I came on this during my morning stroll into the woodlot:
Click on the picture to see better what we have here. It’s a fairy ring of fungi circling the remains of a small tree stump. I’ve seen these before, usually of capped mushrooms. These are a branching kind of fungus. I am not mycologist enough to put a name on them. But I do know that its association with the roots of a tree is not accidental. Normally, the fungus colonizes the roots of a vascular plant in what is called a mycorrhizal association: the fungus gets carbohydrates produced by the photosynthetic plant, which in turn benefits from the spread of the fungal mycelium to increase the reach of its roots as well as the ability of the fungus to take up certain kinds of nutrients the vascular plant cannot. I understand that much. But in this case, where the host plant is only a remnant, I’m not sure what the fungus is getting from the relationship.
Ah, but maybe it’s not the biology of the thing I should look for! In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania calls, “Come now, a roundel and a fairy song.” The roundel would be a circle. Titania wants her fairies to dance in a ring and deliver a fairy song, partly to “keep back the clamorous owl that nightly hoots…” I know that owl. She lives in our woods. I’ve heard her when I go out for night feedings. (Bubo virginianus). If the owl is there, who is to say the fairies are not there, too, dancing in the night in rings in the woods?
“Sing me now asleep,” says Titania.
Well, of course. If I’m asleep while they dance, how would I have ever seen them?