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Do Mushrooms Glow In The Dark? Everything you need to know

Have you ever wondered if mushrooms glow in the dark? The simple answer is YES.

Not all mushrooms glow in the dark. However, many mushrooms, especially those growing on wood, glow in the dark. That light is called “bioluminescence.” It is a phenomenon where organisms that shed light are known as bioluminescent organisms.

This article will highlight the species of mushrooms that glow in the dark, where you can find them, and some tips for growing your own. 

Are There Mushrooms That Glow in the Dark?

mushroom glowing in the dark

Yes, many mushrooms glow in the dark. This phenomenon is known as bioluminescence and it usually results from a chemical reaction involving an enzyme called luciferase, oxygen, and a molecule called luciferin.

In the case of mushrooms, the chemical energy stored in glucose is converted into light energy by combining with oxygen. This creates a flash of light at about 520-530 nanometers (yellow-green), which is why mushroom light appears greenish to our eyes.

Over 10,000 different species of fungi have been discovered until today, and about 65-75 of those are bioluminescent, meaning they emit light. 

While it is true that mushrooms don’t require sunlight to photosynthesize, as they don’t possess chlorophyll, they do need some light to keep the ball rolling. 

That being said, the latest species of glowing fungi was discovered recently, named Roridomyces phyllostachydis.

This species became a member of the 97 discovered glowing fungi. Experts have been at it for a long time, and hopefully, more glowing mushroom species are yet to be discovered. 

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Why Do Some Mushrooms Glow in the Dark?

Mushrooms that glow in the dark have always compelled human beings to figure out what they are and how they are emitting light? 

Thousands of years ago, people believed that some kind of ghost in the plants made them glow. (I’m referring to mushrooms as plants because ancient people did not know that mushrooms are not plants).

They used to call them “ghost mushrooms.” But science has proved that many chemical reactions occur inside the mushrooms to make them glow. 

It has come to light that luciferin and molecular oxygen react with others so that the mushrooms emit light.

But does the light has any significance? Does it provide any benefit to the mushrooms? Yes, it does:

glowing mushrooms

Natural Defense Mechanism:

Mushroom bioluminescence is a natural defense mechanism for fungi. When small insects like mites or springtails attack the fungus, they break apart the fungal threads and expose them to oxygen. 

Their glowing act attracts larger predators like moths, who consume the smaller insects and leave the fungus alone.

To Attract Insects:

Scientists are not 100% sure why these fungi glow. Some suggest that their ability to emit light is just a derivative of other chemical mechanisms.

This means that the light doesn’t have any importance to the mushrooms. But there is one other stronger speculation that mushrooms use this light to draw insects toward them.

The glow of some fungi attracts insects, and the insects carry away the fungus’ spores when they fly. This is how mushrooms reproduce. Some people think this glow is important, but others disagree. 

One reason is that insects are not always drawn to the light of fungi. Researchers are still unsure about how exactly this process works.

10 Mushrooms that Glow in the Dark

There are around 10 fungi that emit light, such as Panellus pusillus, Mycena Pura, Armillaria mellea, and others.

  1. Armillaria mellea:

Also known as Honey Mushrooms, these fungi are usually orange in color and are mainly shared with the Asian continent by the Americas. Those fungi glow visibly like you can see them with your naked eyes.

The Armillaria mellea mushrooms glow from the inside (their mycelia glow, precisely). So, if it’s not easily seen, what is the point of glowing? The theory is that they don’t not want to come near them drawn by the light.

  1. Mycena Pura:

These glowing fungi are among the prettiest in the kingdom, as they have such a unique color, Purple. However, people say they don’t even need the glow to look beautiful. We said this because, just like the honey mushrooms, they do not visibly glow.

Their glow is mainly in their mycelia and can only be seen if observed correctly. The reason is said to be the same as honey mushrooms, to avoid drawing animals.

  1. Omphalotus illudens:

These fungi have illudin S toxin in them. They are mainly orange in color. You can easily see them glowing in the dark with your eyes, as they emit light to draw insects from the surroundings (most probably).

They are mostly found in the European and African continents and are distributed to the rest of the world from here, especially Asia.

  1. Mycena chlorophos:

Mycena chlorophos’ glow is the most beautiful when it’s born recently. Precisely speaking, if the fungus’ age is just around 1 or a maximum of 2 days, you will see it glowing brightly at first glance.

Furthermore, they require a specific temperature for a good glow (80 degrees F, to be precise). The genus they belong to is considered among the most glowing ones.

  1. Panellus stipticus:

The magnificent glow of Panellus stipticus is like no other. They are mainly found in the North American continent and distributed to the whole world. Panellus stipticus has many types, but only some of them glow to the fullest.

They may look a bit faded in the daylight, but no other mushrooms species can challenge their glow in the dark. Mainly their mycelia and grills glow at night.

  1. Armillaria gallica:

Just like other fungi in this genus, they are mainly yellowish in color. People come from all over the world in Michigan to see these glowing fungi.

But they do not openly (visibly) glow. Their glow is limited to their mycelia. The reason is believed to be not to draw any animal presence that can harm them in ways.

  1. Mycena luxaeterna:

They are mostly found in Brazil and glow only through their stems. This glow can be seen in the night because the sunlight overpowers their light.

Whenever we hear about glowing mushrooms, we imagine the whole body glowing, but that’s not the case with Mycena luxaeterna because their cap-like head does not glow at night, only their stems.

  1. Mycena Haematopus:

Among the most beautiful and extravagant fungi are Mycena Haematopus because they emit rubber-like liquid whenever they are forced open by an external force.

It is pretty difficult for the normal eye to see their glow because, first, it is faded; second, the light mainly occurs in the mycelia. They are primarily found in the European and American continents.

  1. Panellus pusillus:

They are mostly found in huge bundles and are cloaked around the tree branches. However, the Panellus pusillus fungi are bioluminescent, but it is almost impossible to see the glow in direct sunlight.

But wait till the sunset. It will be worth your adventure if you happen to see them at night because that is when their “true” colors are appropriately visible. These fungi are found on almost all continents.

  1. Omphalotus olearius:

They glow for some time during their lifetime through their cap bottoms and their mycelia. It usually takes a better eye to see their glow properly.

As time passes, they lose their glow and, of course, their freshness. These mushrooms are also found in almost all continents in the world, with the exception of a couple.

Where Can You Find Glow-in-the-Dark Mushrooms?

Mushrooms are most commonly found in temperate forests with lots of rainfall, so your best bet is somewhere in North America, Australia, northern Europe, Japan, or Southeast Asia. 

The best time to look for glow-in-the-dark mushrooms is after heavy rain when humidity is high, and the air is still. 

To give yourself a better chance of seeing the mushrooms, head out two or three hours after sunset when your eyes have had a chance to adjust. Take a flashlight and wear sturdy shoes; look in areas where there are lots of trees and logs.

Are Glowing Mushrooms Edible?

Not all glowing fungi are edible. 

Some of the most beautiful mushrooms glow in the dark. This defensive mechanism evolved to attract insects that feed on the mushrooms’ enemies. 

Though they are beautiful, it’s best not to eat them. One reason is that their glow is evidence of insect life inside; if bugs are living in them, something must be wrong. 

But above all, if you can see it glowing very well in the dark, it’s probably poisonous (or at least hallucinogenic).

How Do You Grow Glow-in-the-Dark Mushrooms?

The simplest way to grow mushrooms is from a kit. You can even buy kits to grow them indoors on your own kitchen counter.

But the ideal growing conditions for mushrooms depend on the species and variety of mushrooms you want to cultivate. 

For example, some varieties require soil supplemented with specific minerals and nutrients, whereas others thrive best in soil rich in organic matter (manure or compost). 

A few varieties of mushrooms do well on decaying wood, such as oak, beech, alder, or birch.

To grow a glow-in-the-dark mushroom, you’ll need a bag of mycelia, a Panellus stipticus string, a sprayer, a thermometer, bleach, and a gallon of water. 

You will have to freeze the mycelia and the fungi spores for some time and then spread them on the ground.

Then water them daily with expert supervision. Your mushrooms will be ready in 1 to 3 months’ time, and you will have your own glowing mushroom in the garden.

The Takeaway:

Mushrooms glow in the dark due to bioluminescence, or the production of light by living organisms. 

The light from bioluminescent mushrooms comes from a chemical reaction inside the mushroom.

We associate bioluminescence with fireflies, angler fish, and other nighttime dwellers. But mushrooms also have this ability. It is not that common, though, and only about 75 species of mushrooms are known to glow in the dark. 

Most of these have been found in Asia, but some have also been discovered in North America, called Foxfire.

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