Mushroom ring adds a touch of magic to Camps Drift

2014-03-14 00:00

AN empty field near Camps Drift has been brushed with a touch of magic, if you’re that way inclined. But those with a more rational outlook will accept the scientific explanation for the large circle of mushrooms that has appeared as a not unusual, natural occurrence.

“It is quite a common phenomenon and various types of mushrooms develop ‘rings’,” said George Branch, who describes himself as a “mushroom hunter-gatherer”.

He said the circles, also called “fairy rings”, grow because mushrooms start in a clump and spread out progressively.

“As they grow, they decompose organic matter and release nutrients so that the area outside the ring is more attractive for growth. The area inside has already had its organic matter diminished … So the ring continues to grow outwards. This really is a beautiful example,” he said.

Another mushroom expert, who asked not to be named, said the ring would have been growing over several seasons and will be there for years.

He cautioned against people eating the mushrooms, saying they would have to be looked at under a microscope before they could be identified as non-toxic.

“You get white mushrooms that are fine to eat, but every now and again you get one with a green tint that is terribly poisonous. I certainly wouldn’t eat them without first checking.”

Heather Greene, who works as a secretary at the nearby Hulamin plant, said this was the third time a circle had appeared in the same spot.

“The first appeared a day or two after Mandela had passed [in early December]. When it was first spotted, we thought someone had put stones down because of his passing.”

She said there were 50 to 60 mushrooms in the circle and most were “as big as a hand”. “It’s really fascinating. I’m sure people who believe in fairies would look for them if they saw this.”

In many European countries mushroom circles are a rich source of folklore, with dancing fairies, witches, the devil and flying dragons all believed to be associated with them.

Themba Ngcamu, a Durban-based sanuse (the highest form of traditional healer), said he believed the ring was caused by a lack of gratitude and could be the sign of a famine coming.

This would be caused by the fact that many sangomas now neglected the tradition of going to the mountains to ask for rain and then going to the rivers to give thanks when it came.

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