Luminescent Mushrooms

By Michael Gakuran | | Bioluminescence | 15 Comments |

Known as ‘Heavenly light mushrooms’, these bioluminescent fungi are not our usual shade of sapphire blue found often found in the deep sea, but an eerie emerald green colour. Just in time for Christmas then. They are Japan’s Mycena lux-coeli mushrooms, found in the Southern Wakayama prefecture.

Glowing mushroomsApparently the mushrooms only sprout for a few days in the rainy season, growing from fallen logs that are rotting on the forest floor. (The Japan Times)
Pink Tentacle also wrote about them some time ago. Reading from the a now unavailable Mainichi Shimbun article, he gives us some valuable background information:

The Mycena lux-coeli mushrooms, known locally as shii no tomobishi-dake (literally, “chinquapin glow mushrooms”), sprout from fallen chinquapin trees. As they grow, a chemical reaction involving luciferin (a light-emitting pigment contained within the mushrooms) occurs, causing them to glow a ghostly green.

Mycena lux-coeli mushrooms

Image from: Hachijo Kinoko Kenkyukai

This is the same reaction that occurs in many other bioluminescent organisms. An enzyme known as luciferese comes into contact with oxygen (it oxidises), and releases the energy as light – the green glowing that we can see in the mushrooms. Such is the dazzling effect of these mysterious mushrooms in the dark of the forest canopy that they were originally known to locals as ‘pigeon fire’:

In daylight, the 1- to 2-cm-wide mushrooms resemble Japan’s well-known brown enoki mushrooms, and for a long time they were thought to exist only on tiny Hachijo-jima Island 300 km south of Tokyo, where they were known to locals as hato-no-hi, which translates as “pigeon fire” — as they were scientifically named in 1954.

(The Japan Times)

Mycena lux-coeli luminescence

Apparently during the humid summer months when people in Japan are enduring the annual blast of heavy rainfall, tours are led by volunteers such as Shigeru Nishigaito around the small, leafy island of Mesameyama in Ugui, Wakayama. I was unlucky that I was in Japan just after the rainy season this summer, but I hope I get the chance to go and wander around the forests myself sometime in the future. I’d definitely need a high-ISO camera and a tripod to capture these fungi though!

Have you ever seen glowing mushrooms or vegetation where you live?

And Merry Christmas all!

15 comments on “Luminescent Mushrooms
  1. KTU says:

    There are glowing bracket fungus in the woods here in S.E. PA

  2. snishi says:

    Also found in the forests of Amami Oshima.

  3. Tunkki D says:

    I have not seen a glowing mushroom nor vegetation where I live. 

    And Merry Christmas to you too!

  4. Dr. TARIQ RIAZ says:

    Dr. TARIQ RIAZ            It was very interesting to know that the luminiscent mushrooms also exist in certain parts of the world  as in Japan. Japnees are very differnt nation and nature has blessed them with different myco flora.

  5. flaviooteri says:

    yes i seen the other day glow mushroom in the house i live the are amazing

  6. The Envoy says:

    I don’ suppose that these mushrooms are edible, then?

  7. The Envoy says:

    I don’ suppose that these mushrooms are edible, then?

  8. Rieko says:

    It looks nice! I didn’t know such mushrooms are in Japan though Osaka is near Wakayama ^^; I want to see the musurooms changing their colour^^ It sould be great!! I hope you can see them someday:)

  9. Rieko says:

    It looks nice! I didn’t know such mushrooms are in Japan though Osaka is near Wakayama ^^; I want to see the musurooms changing their colour^^ It sould be great!! I hope you can see them someday:)

  10. Satoshii says:

    That’s pretty interesting, I wonder if you can cultivate the luciferese from the mushrooms and infuse it with other plants and vegetables? haha (those new carrots may not help you see in the dark, but you can sure see *them* in the dark! :P)

    ああ,僕の電子辞書はいいだ。 すごくうれしいよ。 クリスマスは僕の家族はうれしいかっただ。 土曜日の朝まだいいか。 10午前からいいか。

    • Mike says:

      Haha. I think it’s probably possible, *nods. Maybe I’ll have a look for it sometime.

      Saturday’s fine. (Can’t write Japanese right now as it’s not installed here). Good luck with your new dictionary!

  11. Satoshii says:

    That’s pretty interesting, I wonder if you can cultivate the luciferese from the mushrooms and infuse it with other plants and vegetables? haha (those new carrots may not help you see in the dark, but you can sure see *them* in the dark! :P)

    ああ,僕の電子辞書はいいだ。 すごくうれしいよ。 クリスマスは僕の家族はうれしいかっただ。 土曜日の朝まだいいか。 10午前からいいか。

    • Mike says:

      Haha. I think it’s probably possible, *nods. Maybe I’ll have a look for it sometime.

      Saturday’s fine. (Can’t write Japanese right now as it’s not installed here). Good luck with your new dictionary!

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