Hunting Mushrooms, and What Makes Some Glow in the Dark


Mr. Muskat found a rhizomorph at the bottom of our tree, but the healthy-looking wood and the dead-looking mushroom suggested it wouldn’t glow. Still, he shouted “lights out,” and we waited for even a faint light. As we allowed our eyes to adapt to the darkness — it should take around 20 minutes — we played a brain game called minute mystery to pass the time.

Something strange in the dark

The honey mushroom we found never produced any glowing wood, but while I sat in the dark, I spotted tiny green dots: an unexpected cluster of bitter oyster, one of the other glowing species, lined up on a small stick.

More bitter oyster appeared, as if out of nowhere, in another spot where we were disappointed yet again by decomposing jack-o’-lantern mushrooms. The dead mushrooms looked like burned pancakes that were teeming with insects, emitting only a dim, ghostly, pewter aura.

As a mushroom’s metabolism shuts down in death, so does its ability to create light, said Dr. Kaskova: “Fewer and fewer molecules of luciferin are synthesized, so the glowing becomes weaker and weaker.”

A surprise in the sunlight

After an unsatisfying evening, we went looking for other mushrooms just for fun the next day. Unexpectedly, we found hundreds of jack-o’-lanterns in the daylight. This is why you should always bring a basket. It should be wood or natural fiber with a lattice bottom so the mushrooms’ spores can return to the forest floor.

To collect the mushrooms, bring a knife and a brush. Unless you want your ’shrooms to turn into slime, bring wax paper or a paper bag, never plastic.

At home, I placed my fresh jack-o’-lanterns, gills up, in a cardboard box in the corner of a windowless bathroom and waited for my eyes to adjust. It didn’t take long before I saw the little glowing gills. They appeared to be breathing. Hello there, my neon green friend. I’ve heard so much about you.

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Source: New York Times



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