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Flower Pot Mushrooms and Fairy Rings: Delicate but Deadly

The colorful history of the Fairy Ring and Flower Pot Mushroom make them an interesting addition to the Florida landscape. Just appreciate them with caution.

I’ve always been fascinated by the shape and color of the toadstool or mushroom. When I was a child, I would actually pick them from the soil and use them for
decorations on my fanciful mud pies that I “cooked” in the summer sun.

I was always cautioned by my parents and other influential grown-ups not to actually eat the wild mushrooms because they are poisonous.

While researching for this blog entry, I discovered just how much I don’t understand about this fungus.  Even experts seem to disagree on a specific classification for many. Here are two that have innocent sounding names but will cause problems if eaten. The first one is the Flower Pot Mushroom, and the other is The Fairy Ring.

Planting Pinellas, a publication from Pinellas Co. recently distributed a blog entry from Dusty Purcel regarding the flower pot mushroom.  According to Dusty, a Mycologist who studied at University of Florida, the flower pot mushroom is both delicate and colorful. 

Dusty writes:

“Despite its frequency, it has no universally accepted common name, though flower pot mushroom would be appropriate. It goes by the scientific name Leucocoprinus birnbaumii, but some field guides may list it as Leucocoprinus luteus. These mushrooms don’t harm the plants they share potting soil with; they just decompose the organic matter in the soil. You may see them any time of the year in Florida, but in the cooler months you’re more likely to see them in a greenhouse or at the base of a houseplant. While they are most conspicuous when growing with potted plants, they can also be found in compost piles, old mulch, and among the twigs and leaf-litter of the forest floor.


"Mature mushrooms range from pale to bright yellow and stand about 4 inches
tall.  I’ll forego the detailed description here… If you see little yellow mushrooms growing from your potted plants it’s pretty safe to assume that this is your guy. They are tissue-paper delicate and don’t normally last more than a day or two before shriveling away. So try to enjoy the short lived novelty of this harmless mushroom if you ever see them among your houseplants.”

However, while this flower pot mushroom is harmless to your plants, it could be harmful to humans and pets if eaten. 

The Fairy Ring is another interesting phenomenon you may notice popping up through your turf grass after the recent late summer rains. These are large white capped mushrooms that grow on buried organic matter in the soil and form a ring or often a half circle. These rings seem to appear mysteriously overnight.  Some myths conclude that the rings are the result of dancing fairies. 

Don’t rely on the growth pattern to determine identification of particular fungi. The
innocuous sounding moniker, Fairy Ring, can cause confusion among homeowners.  The cause for their occurrence is complicated.  Since many of these mushrooms are poisonous, it is best to assume that all are poisonous and should be handpicked from your yard, especially if you have pets and children playing
in the area.   

I don’t believe we should panic and begin applying unnecessary chemicals to our plants and yards. While the drought stress caused by the mushrooms absorption of available water from the surrounding turf can be unsightly, it is not usually permanent. As noted by Monica Elliott at the UF Ft. Lauderdale Research Center:  “The rings will disappear naturally, but it may take up to five years.” 

In the meantime, just appreciate them cautiously. Their colorful history and lore
alone makes them an interesting addition to our Florida landscape.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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