|Day View||Night View|
Photos: Courtesy of Mark Robertson
It is not unusual, when walking through a forest at night, to see an eerie glow coming from the base of a tree. Sometimes it turns out to be an insect, but often it is a bioluminescent mushroom.
The light is created by a chemical reaction. A substance called luciferin reacts with an enzyme, luciferase, causing the luciferin to oxidise, with the consequent emission of light.
Fireflies, glow-worms and a number of marine organisms, such as fish, use bioluminescence to attract prey or mates.
The function in fungi is unknown. It has been suggested that it attracts insects which then disperse the spores. It is also possible that the production of light is incidental - although this is unlikely since it is an energy-expensive process.
One of the best-known bioluminescent fungi in Australia is Pleurotus nidfformis. This is a large, irregular-shaped fungus with little or no stem, which often grows in dense clusters at the base of living or dead eucalypts.
We have Mycena chlorophanos (above) with smaller, daintier fruiting bodies, also growing in clusters. Not only the fruiting body but also the mycelium of this species glows.
This gilled toadstool has fruit bodies which are typically funnel-shaped, with a white cap which often becomes darker yellow, brown, blue or purple (especially in the centre).
The gills and spore print are white.
Ghost Fungus usually grows in clusters at the base of trees.
The most distinctive feature of the Ghost Fungus is its strong luminescence, the purpose of which is unknown.
It is poisonous, causing severe vomiting.
It is sometimes confused with Pleurotus species, which are non-luminescent.
Additional Luminous Fungi Photos