Mushrooms don’t have to be psychedelic to get me all psyched about them. To me, they are one of the most interesting organisms alive on this earth; incredible diversity in shape and color, an intricate communication system called mycelium, and a wide array of healing properties make them a baffling, fascinating mystery – they are not a plant, yet not quite a living animal.
And, as I recently found out, some mushrooms can even glow in the dark. In fact, there are over 70 species of bioluminescent mushrooms, out of 14,000 species of mushrooms discovered to date.
How do mushrooms glow?
Glowing fungi usually grow on decaying wood. What makes mushrooms light up is the same substance that makes fireflies and bioluminescent fish glow – a molecule called oxyluciferin. Some mushrooms have luminous caps, while others emit light only from the stem. Some glow only in the mycelium, which is below the ground.
When researchers studied this phenomenon, they found out that some mushrooms' glow follows a circadian rhythm, while others glow all the time.
Why do mushrooms glow?
As with anything in the field of science and biology, the answer is not certain, but there are some theories. One says they glow to reproduce, using their bioluminescence to attract insects that spread spores.
Other theories suggest that the glow is meant to deter potential "predators". This theory explains why some mushrooms only have glowing mycelium - it is a mechanism meant to startle animals that may dig up mushrooms to eat them. Most mushrooms glow only for about a day since they'll wilt away within less than a week.
Where can I find bioluminescent mushrooms?
The Honey Mushroom (Armillaria mallea) is the most widespread bioluminescent mushroom, found on nearly every continent. Other mushrooms, like the Eternal Light Mushroom, are region-specific. It grows and glows only in the rainforests of Brazil.
What mushrooms are bioluminescent?
As mentioned, there are over 70 species. Here are a few mushroom species that glow above ground:
- Eastern Jack-O'-Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus illudens)
- Jack-O'-Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus olearius)
- Eternal Light Mushroom (Mycena luxaeterna)
- Lilac Bonnet (Mycena pura)
- Green Pepe (Mycena chlorophos)
- Bitter Oyster (Panellus stipticus)
- Little Ping-Pong Bats(Panellus pusillus)
- Honey Mushroom (Armillaria mellea)
- Bulbous Honey Fungus (Armillaria gallica)