Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges
Tropical North Queensland, Australia.
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Luminous Fungi

Luminious Fungi
Day ViewNight View

Photos: Courtesy of Mark Robertson

Luminous Fungi: 

  • 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.

Ghost Fungus:

  • 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

Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges
Lake Eacham, Atherton Tablelands
Tropical North Queensland, Australia.
PH & Fax: 07 4095 3754 International: 61 7 4095 3754

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