No, it’s not Halloween yet, but a special type of bright orange fungus has some mushroom enthusiasts glowing with excitement.
Jack-o’-lantern mushrooms have been found in Windsor-Essex, Ont. The region just in time for the fall. These mushrooms differ from others due to a very interesting feature:
“They bioluminesce — they glow in the dark,” says Robert Wright, a self-described mushroom enthusiast and all-around fungus forager.
Orange mushrooms are found all over North America, but Wright said he found the mushrooms only on a path located in the Devonshire Conservation Area. Wright said they are a common sight around Windsor-Essex.
Wright said he found jack-o’-lantern mushrooms by accident because he was looking for something else.
“I was looking for chicken of the woods mushrooms that could also be bright orange and have the same growing areas as the jack-o’-lantern mushroom,” he said.
“I saw some orange, backed up a bit and saw more orange and thought, ‘Wow, I’ve got a motherload of chickens of the woods.'”
Upon closer inspection, Wright found jack-o’-lantern mushrooms instead.
The mushroom variety also exists in parts of Michigan, said Dennis Widmar, owner of mushroom retailer The Mush Hub. But it warns people who want to eat it.
“Unfortunately, they’re inedible,” Widmer said. “[They’re] is toxic and can really upset your stomach.”
Widmar says jack-o’-lanterns can be mistaken for other types of mushrooms.
“A lot of people will mistake it for a chanterelle mushroom when hunting,” he said.
Wright says there are multiple theories as to why jack-o-lantern mushrooms glow in the dark, but he has one of his own.
“The insects will then get the spores on them because the mushroom, this particular mushroom, grows from the gills,” Wright said. “I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I’ll leave that to the experts.”
Wright says he had to persevere to get pictures of the mushrooms showing their bioluminescence.
“Since there was one, I thought, ‘I’ll take it home and I’ll do a little experiment,'” Wright said. “I set it up in a dark basement. I put it on a piece of tinfoil so that whatever light came through it would be clear. Then I set the timed exposure for about 9 minutes. When I turned the camera back on and booted it up on the computer, There was an image.”