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November 24 2012

The mysterious fairy circles of Namibia

In the grasslands of Namibia are millions of strangely bare circles. They're called "fairy circles." Although we know, roughly, what happens during their lifespan, no one knows why they crop up, or why they eventually fade.

The term "fairy ring" means different things in different parts of the world. For some reason, they all center on botany. In some parts, they refer to a ring of mushrooms that pop out of the ground seemingly at random. In my neck of the woods, they refer to a circle of trees, most often redwoods, that surround the stump of a fallen tree. In Namibia, they refer to the strange bare patches that pepper some stretches of grassland.

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