The frequent, heavy rains in certain areas of the state have resulted in the appearance of mushrooms in home lawns and landscape beds. Although mushrooms are often spectacular in size and color, most are relatively harmless to plant life. Some of these mushrooms are associated with arc-like or circular patterns in turfgrass called fairy rings. The ring pattern is caused by the outward growth of fungal mycelium. The mycelium forms a dense, mat-like structure in the soil that decomposes organic matter. This decomposition releases nitrate into the soil, which in turn stimulates the growth of the grass at the outer portion of the ring. This results in a dark green appearance of the grass at the margin of the ring. Unfortunately, the thick fungal mat formed by the fungus interferes with water infiltration. The fungus also may release certain byproducts that are toxic to the turf. This may lead to dieback of the turf close to the ring. Therefore, in some cases the ring is evidenced by a darker green color and in others, by a brown ring with the outside edge being darker green than the rest of the turf.
Fairy rings are difficult to control. You can sometimes eliminate the ring by digging to a depth of 6 to 12 inches and 12 inches wide on both sides of the ring, refilling the hole with non-infested soil. Or you can try to mask the symptoms by fertilizing the rest of the lawn so that it is as dark green as the ring. This often isn’t a good idea because it tends to promote other turf problems. Commercial people can use certain fungicides to control fairy rings but these products are not available to homeowners. See http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/bookstore/pubs/EP155.pdf for more info on these fungicides.
Some mushrooms in lawns are not associated with fairy rings. These may be mycorrhizal (symbiotic association with tree roots) or saprophytic (live on dead organic matter such as wood, etc.) in the soil. Because some of these mushrooms are beneficial, you don’t really want to kill them. Besides, a fungicide spray to the mushroom itself does little good. Remember the mushroom is simply the fruiting structure of the organism. Most of the fungus is below ground and inaccessible to the chemical. If mushrooms are a nuisance, pick them and dispose of them as soon as they appear. Remove sources of large organic debris from the soil. Also, mushrooms tend to go away as soil dries. Patience may be the best control. Some of the mushrooms in the lawn are edible, but others are poisonous. Never eat mushrooms unless you are sure of their identity.
Contributors: Ward Upham, Extension Associate
Horticulture & Natural Resources
2021 Throckmorton, KSU
Manhattan, KS 66506