Say the name 'Magic Mushrooms', and most people don't think of Omphalotus nidiformis, the Ghost Fungus, but they should! In normal light, this remarkable species appears creamy whitish with a golden centre, but at night, it glows an eerie silvery-bluish to the naked eye, or almost radioactive green on camera. We at the Glow Show think that's pretty magical!
Omphalotus nidiformis is just one of dozens of species of fungi that are bioluminescent, that is, capable of creating their own light. Their light is cool, in both the temperature sense and the slang sense.
Glowing fungi have certainly hogged their fair share of folklore through history. The Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder referred to luminous wood in olive groves, now believed to be due to fungi. Indigenous Indonesians used them on sticks to light up the forest, while some Scandinavian tribes used them as markers in their forests. In the late 18th century, glowing wood was used as an underwater light source for America's first submarine, Turtle. Even the mythical Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn used 'Foxfire', or glowing fungi, when digging a tunnel to free their friend Jim. Foxfire... Touchwood... Fairy fire... by any name it is still captivating, suggesting something supernatural.
Today, in a world where battery-operated torches and flashlights are commonplace, fungi would seem dim in comparison. But for those who stop and smell the roses, or um, stop and watch the fungi glow, the rewards are immense. Let your eyes adjust to the darkness, then marvel at how they illuminate your way.