Several living organisms naturally glow through chemical processes in their body. However, some organisms also produce light only when flashed with electromagnetic radiation. But, do mushrooms glow under UV light?
Some species of mushrooms glow under ultraviolet (UV) light. This fungal species absorbs the light they receive from UV radiation and converts it into a variety of beautiful colors. These mushrooms are common subjects in UV photography.
The rest of this article will explain why mushrooms glow in UV light and even why they glow without one. Also listed here are examples of these mushrooms because you might encounter them on your next forest expedition!
Which Mushrooms Glow in UV Light and Why?
Glowing mushrooms can be distinguished into two: luminescent and fluorescent. While both types emit light, the difference lies in the process behind their glow.
Luminescent mushrooms produce light caused by chemical processes other than heat. These are mushrooms that create their light. On the other hand, fluorescent mushrooms require electromagnetic radiation, such as ultraviolet radiation, before it reflects light.
Understanding UV Light
Ultraviolet (UV) light is a type of electromagnetic radiation that are invisible to the human eye. However, some animals can see UV light, like butterflies, reindeer, and salmon.
UV light is used in many ways. For example, one primary source of not just UV light — but light in general — is the sun.
Extended exposure to the sun may pose some health risks, but sunlight is still helpful in some ways, just like killing bacteria. This is why it’s recommended to dry your clothes under the sun.
UV light is also used in photography to capture certain subjects, including rocks, minerals, plants, and even fungi!
What Are Fluorescent Mushrooms?
Mushrooms are one favorite subject of UV photographers as some of these fluoresce under UV light.
For example, photographers like Alan Rockefeller explore the wild for glowing mushrooms. Given his expertise in mycology or the study of fungi, he talked about UV photography with mushrooms as his subject.
In his talk to the South Vancouver Island Mycological Society, he discussed the beauty of glowing fungi. He also mentioned some fluorescent mushrooms that glow using his special UV equipment designed for photography:
- Tricholoma aurantio-olivaceum. This species is a North American agaric or mushroom with a cap and gills on its underside. It has a pale-cream color that glows into yellowish white from its core when flashed with a UV lamp.
- Galerina vittiformis (hairy leg bell). This another species of agaric fungus grows in moist areas with temperate climates. Its color ranges from yellow to yellowish brown, which brightens more under UV light.
- Caulorhiza umbonata (redwood rooter). This mushroom grows on redwood trees, as its name applies. Moreover, they’re orange to tan in color, which, when placed under UV light, glows into blue when young and sea green when older.
- Albogymnopilus nanus. According to Rockefeller, this is a mushroom of the new genus that fluoresce into sea green in UV light.
- Psilocybe subtropicalis. Founded in Mexico in 1995, this brown mushroom produces UV-induced light on its gill edges located on the cap underside.
- Pholiota spumosa. With color ranging from yellowish to brown, this mushroom fluoresces into green when placed in UV light.
- Cyptotrama asprata (golden-scruffy collybia). This mushroom grows on hardwood trees. They appear as deep yellow/golden when budding for the first time turning pale yellow and, ultimately, bright orange when flashed with a UV light source.
- Genus Russula. The species of this genus is one of the most common fungi situated in woodlands. They’re larger than other mushrooms and have a maroon color that turns bright blue in UV light.
The mushrooms mentioned above are only some of those that glow under UV light. You can watch the rest of Rockefeller’s talk on YouTube. Here’s the link to the video:
Fluorescence in living organisms is caused by molecules getting excited when absorbing ultraviolet (UV) light. As they suck up UV radiation, they convert the heat to different colors visible to the human eye.
Which Mushrooms Glow Through Luminescence?
As I’ve said earlier, not everything that glows is fluorescent. Some are also luminescent or emit light even without UV radiation or any other light source.
Since we are now on the topic of glowing mushrooms, let me mention some luminescent mushrooms. You might find this list helpful in identifying glow-in-the-dark mushrooms you may encounter while navigating through woody areas.
Armillaria mellea (Honey Mushroom)
This fungus grows on both living and dead trees. It doesn’t glow through its cap or stem, but rather, its mycelia or the fibrous part of the mushroom under the ground, through which nutrients from its host are absorbed.
Omphalotus olearius (Jack-O’Lantern Mushroom)
This mushroom, which often grows in clusters, is initially bright orange. It emits a glow in its mycelia and gills, which are found on the cap underside. It gets it’s name not only from the bright orange color, but also because of the glow it emits, like a lit-up jack-o’lantern.
Having around 50 species under this genus, mushroom-bearing fungi variants of this are known to be bioluminescent. For example, Panellus stipticus, from its yellow-beige color during the day, emits a green glow in the dark. Another specie called Panellus pusillis also produces a greenish light.
At least 26 species of Mycena are proven to be luminescent. Among these species are:
- Mycena chlorophos (green pepe), which emits a pale green glow.
- Mycena pura (lilac bonnet), which the cap glows into a soft purple color.
- Mycena luxaeterna (eternal light mushroom), a species with a stem glowing green constantly, even in daylight.
- Mycena haematopus (bleeding fairy helmet) is a mushroom with a very subtle glow almost invisible to the human eye.
Where To Find Glowing Mushrooms
Given what you now know about glowing mushrooms, you may have grown interested. If, in any case, you decide that you want to see for yourself these glowing creatures, try checking out your backyard first for some mushrooms.
Mushrooms are the “fruit” of some species of fungi. Knowing fungus, they love cool and damp areas. If you decide to take the extra mile of going to a forest for an official glowing mushroom hunt, it’s better to go when the weather is humid. This will increase your chances of abundant mushroom growth in the woods.
In addition, fungi are decomposers that feed on decaying and dead organic matter. Most of this matter is located on the ground so expect mushrooms lying around fallen fruits, branches, and leaves.
Consequently, mushrooms can also be parasitic on living organisms. As such, you can bump into mushrooms attached to the bases, trunk, and branches of a tree. Make sure to look at trees closely to find any signs of mushroom growth.
The caveat here is that be careful, especially around trees with mushrooms on them. This can indicate that a tree is suffering from a fungal tree disease; thus, its wood strength can be weak and might fall on you anytime.
Are Glowing Mushrooms Poisonous?
To be frank, whether a mushroom is poisonous or not is independent of the fact that they’re glowing. The mushrooms I mentioned above are mostly, if not all, wild mushrooms. With this, expect that not all of them are edible.
Cultivated and wild mushrooms are very different. The very fact that they’re found in the wild means that you need to treat them with extreme caution.
Some species of fungi are incredibly poisonous. If you’re not an expert in the mushroom world, you better not take risks.
If you enjoy growing mushrooms at home, you can use growing bags. Read my step-by-step guide to learn how: How to Grow Mushrooms in a Grow Bag (Complete Guide)
Some mushrooms are among the few organisms that glow with or without UV light. These processes are called fluorescence and bioluminescence, respectively. Because of this, certain mushrooms are favorite subjects of photographers because of their glow.
Moreover, one can find glowing mushrooms in cool and moist places and when the weather is humid. They’re frequently scattered on the ground or grow on trees. If you like to search for a glowing mushroom to see for yourself, make sure to know the area first and understand the nature of mushrooms.