Monday, October 13, 2014

Glowing Mushrooms

 Panellus stipticus - Susan Farrington
The Mingo National Wildlife Refuge foray of the Missouri Mycological Society last weekend was a combination of great food, mushroom collecting and identification, great food, fellowship, and did I mention wonderful food? The highlight of the fungal finds was really a high-light, glowing brightly in the darkened storeroom. Susan Farrington found it and tells it this way.
"Coolest mushroom I found today at the Mingo Foray: bioluminescent Panellus stipticus. This thing glows like crazy!! (Much stronger than the jack-o'-lantern). 30 second exposure at 3200 ISO, F 8.0."
P. stipticus - Susan Farrington
Known by the demeaning names of bitter oyster or the astringent panus, Panellus stipticus is found in Asia, Australasia, Europe, and North America. The eastern U.S. specimens show a bioluminescence not found in the west or other continents. A single dominant allele found on genetic analysis controls this function, so it apparently evolved this trait east of the Rockies.

P. stipticus - Susan Farrington
P. stipticus has several other interesting traits. It has been shown to detoxify some environmental pollutants and is being studied for a potential role in bioremediation. It has a slightly bitter or astringent taste and another name, stiptic fungus, comes from its use in China to stop bleeding. There is much more information including the details of bioluminesence in this extensive Wikipedia article.
Jack-o'-lantern headed to the bathroom -  REK
When I think of bioluminescent mushrooms, the jack-o'-lantern immediately comes to mind. Last year I stood in a crowded blackened bathroom at Bull Mills with other like-minded adults for longer that I care to admit and still never saw a glow. Susan has an answer for this.
"You need a very young and fresh jack. Wrap it in a damp towel in loose plastic until dark. Take it to very dark place and wait for eyes to adjust. I found if I look just to the side of if, you can see the faint glow. By contrast, we could see the Panellus glow brightly from six feet away the second we turned the lights out!"
Jack-o'-lantern, Omphalotus olearius, is a much more impressive mushroom in daylight. Although I will probably stand again in the future in a darkened room with consenting adults, staring at it, I suspect P. stipticus has diminished any future thrill.  P.S.- Our friend Georgia took home this "floral" decoration below from a dinner Sunday night and reports, "I checked it out as soon as we got back and after about 3 min in the dark it had quite a light green glow on the gills. Pretty cool."
Decorating with fungi
P. stipticus photographs by Susan Farrington of the Missouri Department of Conservation. She is the Natural History Biologist for the Ozark Region.

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