October Salt Spring Island Fungus the Month: Xylaria hypoxylon

October's fungus of the month is Xylaria hypoxylon, the spooky Candlesnuff Fungus. This distinctive fungus has pale branching tips and dark bases and grows like bony grasping hands out of rotted wood in damp swampy ground. But the reason it's the Halloween fungus of the month is that it glows in the dark!

observation by dianalynn1

This fungi decays wood, which releases phosphorus. The phosphorus reacts with oxygen in the tissues of the fungi to make a faint greenish light. This accidental light is quite dim, but supposedly is visible on perfectly dark moonless nights. We've tried picking up rotting wood with Candlesnuff fungus on it and looking at it in a windowless room and taking long exposure photographs, but have not personally been able to see the glow.

observation by caladri

Perhaps it is more intense earlier in the season, when the fungus is growing quickly. I look forward to trying earlier in the year next year. Here are someone else's photographs of Candlesnuff fungus glowing.

There were other spooky glowing fungi growing on Salt Spring Island seen during October as well:

observation by caladri
Mycena pura

observation by jennonthisland
Mycena haematopus

There are at least 50 bioluminescent species in the Mycena genus, which sounds like good odds until you remember that there are at least 500 species of Mycena, and they are all tiny and easy to overlook. They have a blue-green glow, brighter than Xylaria hypoxylon. However, their glow can also be difficult to spot: not only are they tiny, but many of them glow only the first night their caps are open, to attract insects to spread their spores.

The mycologist Alan Rockefeller has posted many observations of glowing Mycena species in California and Mexico, many of them new to science. They're incrdible.
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As the nights grow long, keep your eyes open for the tiny eerie glows of Xylaria hypoxylon and the Mycenas.

Posted by corvi corvi, November 24, 2019 04:39

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