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"Researchers strongly advise that they shouldn't be eaten."
August 27, 2011 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Bioluminescent Mushrooms. Glow-in-the-dark mushroom [Neonothopanus gardneri.] rediscovered after 170 years: Spotted once in 1840 and then never seen again, one of the world's most bioluminescent mushrooms has been rediscovered deep in the Brazilian wilderness.
posted by Fizz (37 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Linked article says it was named after the "discoverer" who sent a sample back to Kew Herbarium in England. But it should have been named after the Brazilian kids George Gardner saw playing with the mushrooms and who knew where and how they grew. We may never know their names, but Neonothopanus Joãozinho, perhaps.
posted by Stoatfarm at 6:27 AM on August 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


‎... of course, this doesn't include all the mushrooms that just make you perceive they're glowing after ingesting a few.
posted by waynepalmer at 6:37 AM on August 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


it should have been named after the Brazilian kids

right on!
posted by the cuban at 7:09 AM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Stoatfarm, you beat me to it. Wow, such a discovery. He really worked hard for it.
posted by Splunge at 7:19 AM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


should have been named after the Brazilian kids George Gardner saw playing with the mushrooms

"They called it "flor-de-coco," and showed Gardner where it grew on decaying fronds at the base of a dwarf palm."

So it would be a little odd to name it after the kids, they were also not the "discoverers" of it, those mushrooms already had a name as far as the locals were concerned.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:36 AM on August 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


So, if I eat these, they'll restore any batteries I have with me?
posted by fuq at 7:42 AM on August 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


There is a mushroom found in a good portion of the U.S. with the common name of jack-o'-lantern and the Latin name of Omphalotus olearius which also glows in the dark. This is a pretty poisonous mushroom frequently mistaken for chanterelles or sulfer shelf, both delicious edibles. If you find these, good back and look at them at night. They do indeed glow.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:47 AM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now we know where to hold the next raves.
posted by Philofacts at 7:53 AM on August 27, 2011


Is there unobtanium as well?
posted by tremspeed at 8:01 AM on August 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is a pretty poisonous mushroom frequently mistaken for chanterelles or sulfur shelf, both delicious edibles

This is one major reason why I will NEVER forage wild mushrooms. The fact that poisonous ones commonly look like and are similar to non-poisonous ones just leaves too much risk for my liking.
posted by Fizz at 8:13 AM on August 27, 2011


These will look fantastic on my bioluminescent sashimi plate.
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:20 AM on August 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


they were also not the "discoverers" of it

See, this is one of those things where "discover" has both a technical and a popular meaning. As with Christopher Columbus, the thing discovered did have people who knew about it, but the discovery process -- mapping, inventorying, reporting -- had important value beyond the "knowing about it" part.
posted by dhartung at 8:22 AM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's often not appreciated when people say "the planet is overpopulated" or "we consume too many resources" that this is only true within the narrow context of our horrifically inefficient and inorganic late-stage industrial society. The rest of the biome uses far more energy and resources than humanity does, it just does a lot better job of it than we do

A little fungus can literally turn dirt or bread or actual literal shit into antibiotics, food, poison, psychedelics or even visible light with a bit of organic nano-alchemy

We're the species who alternates between trying to figure out how we became so uniquely intelligent and how we can scrub more radioactive sulfur from the coal we burn
posted by crayz at 8:34 AM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the appalachian mountains we always called bioluminescent mushrooms foxfire. That's always been one of my favorite common names.
posted by Buckt at 8:45 AM on August 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


A little fungus can literally turn dirt or bread or actual literal shit into antibiotics, food, poison, psychedelics or even visible light with a bit of organic nano-alchemy

Maybe we need to figure out a way to turn our poo into various useful things. ;)
Half joking, can you imagine "Hi, i'm bob, i poo antibiotics." "i'm jane, i poo peanut butter."
;)
posted by usagizero at 8:53 AM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


our horrifically inefficient and inorganic late-stage

I do not think that word means what you think it means.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:55 AM on August 27, 2011


Researchers strongly advise that they shouldn't be eaten

Is it wrong that, before I even read this, I wondered whether they were edible?
posted by ostranenie at 9:09 AM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is one major reason why I will NEVER forage wild mushrooms. The fact that poisonous ones commonly look like and are similar to non-poisonous ones just leaves too much risk for my liking.

More chanterelles for me. It's really not at all difficult to tell them apart from Jack o' Lanterns. Knowing what kind of fungi typically grow in your area (derp derp) + what substrate the mushroom you're after grows on + rigorously using identification keys -- as in, using multiple guides to identify what you've collected -- make foraging safe (safe enough for the mushrooms I hunt, anyway). I stick mainly to chanterelle foraging, because I can do that easily in town -- lots of big pin oaks here -- and they're ridiculously delicious. People have no idea that $30/pound mushrooms are growing in their yards, and even after I tell them that and ask permission to collect and offer to share they're happy to let me take them all. Works for me.

Also, Jack o' Lantern isn't deadly poisonous -- you'd just get GI distress. Not that you'd want that, but it won't destroy your liver like the wrong Amanita will.
posted by cog_nate at 9:18 AM on August 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Although I'm relatively ignorant of them, I swear I love to learn new things about cool mushrooms. I need to go on a eco-vacation or something that somehow focuses on finding and classifying them. Anybody know of anything like that?

/aspiring mycogeek
posted by darkstar at 10:25 AM on August 27, 2011


whenever we ran low on booze and needed pineapples to make more, i would run the old dodge dart up to the dole fields at wahiawa. parked next to the field, trunk open, car jacked up, and the spare tire lying on the ground, i would get busy and fill the back seat with stolen fruit. on a particularly hot day, i wandered into the bamboo forest at the edge of the field to cool off a bit. i entered a small clearing of filtered light and leafy shadows. there before me was the ugliest fucking mushroom in the world. it was easily 3 feet in diameter, ringed with a glistening circle of dripping rose-colored teeth and topped with a puddle of bubbling brown shit that was probably squeezed from the ass of the last person it ate. i wished for a field guide, i wished for a camera, or a witness, but most of all i wished i had never seen the goddam thing.
posted by kitchenrat at 11:44 AM on August 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Why did my brain choose to read kitchenrat's comment in Steven Jesse Bernstein's voice?
posted by hippybear at 11:53 AM on August 27, 2011


"...which shines brightly enough to read by" (from the article)

I'd really like to know what that means. I've seen glowing mushrooms in Maryland, and maybe if you held a book right against them you could make out a word or two, but "to read by" implies to me you could put one on a string around your neck and read a book. That would be amazing!
posted by Patapsco Mike at 12:08 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I need to go on a eco-vacation or something that somehow focuses on finding and classifying them.

Caution: mushroom knowledge is not portable. A fair number of fatal poisonings occur when people familiar with the mushrooms in their home country move to a new area. E.g. Eastern European or Asian immigrants in the Pacific Northwest. Even if their favorite edible species occur in both places, there may be poisonous look-alikes specific to one area only.
posted by ryanrs at 12:30 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


@Fizz, chanterelle & chicken of the woods don't REALLY look like jack-o'-lantern mushrooms. Chanterelles are the easiest for foragers to identify. They even smell slightly like apricots. You shouldn't let your fears keep you from one of the most fun hobbies of all time!

@darkstar, the PNW/California has quite a few people who would be happy to show you the ropes. I would think that the Cascade Mycological Society would help you (http://cascademyco.org/category/information/huntinginfo/)...there's so many people on the upper west coast who love teaching others about it.
posted by 200burritos at 12:37 PM on August 27, 2011


So anyone have their own theories on why some fungi have developed bioluminescence? As the article says there isn't much concensus among mycologists.
posted by Locobot at 1:18 PM on August 27, 2011


People have no idea that $30/pound mushrooms are growing in their yards

I discovered that in Tuscany the chanterelle's cousin, the Craterellus cornucopioides aka black trumpet, is shunned/feared, and left standing: they call them death-trumpets. They're as (if not more) delicious as the related chanterelle and yellowfoot, and grow near them - and they were all ours to keep!
posted by progosk at 1:19 PM on August 27, 2011


It's probably not a coincidence that there are poisonous species that look so much like edibles, it's a form of Batesian mimicry by the edibles.

I do have my doubts about eating mimics of poisonous species, however, even when identified properly by experts.

Recently a number of gene transfers between species of fungus have come to light; for example

... Slot and Rokas found that an entire cluster of 23 genes, those involved in the metabolic pathway for making sterigmatocystin (a toxic compound that is a precursor for the deadly aflatoxins), had been horizontally transferred from Aspergillis to the distantly related Podospora. That’s a lot of genes, and since genes involved in the same pathway are often physically linked on the DNA of fungi, there’s a potential for widespread transfer of entire metabolic pathways between species (metabolic genes appear to be horizontally transferred among all species much more often than “informational” genes involved in DNA replication and transcription).

How did this happen? Well, Aspergillis and Podospora often occupy the same niche: both are “saprotrophs“, or species that break down dead animals and plants. Living cheek by jowl, some of the DNA of an Aspergillis could have been ingested by a Podospora in the stew of organic matter, and incorporated into its genome. But we don’t know exactly how this happened.


Batesian mimicry would be most effective when models and mimics are "cheek by jowl", and those are the perfect conditions for horizontal gene transfer (HGT). If such a transfer did happen, it would be strongly selected for in the presence of a predator capable of great nicety of discrimination, such as we human beings.

This would amount to the evolution of Mullerian mimicry from a base of Batesian mimicry, which I think is likely to be a general tendency of Batesian mimicry anyway.
posted by jamjam at 1:20 PM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a mycologist friend who claims you either can tell mushrooms apart or you can't. I'm pretty sure he's on to something there. I would never personally mistake either a chanterelle or sulfer shelf for a jack-o-lantern, but people do. And they usually don't die, but they might wish they would, because your gut will feel like it's trying to kill you.

Chanterelles grow on the floor of the forest. They might look like a jack-o-lantern but they aren't in the right place. If you think you've found chanterelles and they're on a stump or the side of a tree, that's not a chanterelle. On the other hand, if you've found a bright orange, delicious smelling mushroom in wood (side of a tree or stump), check underneath the mushroom. If you see gills, come back at night and see if they glow. That's a jack-o-lantern. But if you don't, if you see pores or a spongy like surface, that's probably sulfer shelf, aka chicken of the woods (because it tastes and cooks a lot like chicken). But know thyself. Can you tell species apart or can't you? DO NOT GUESS! Ask a mushroom hunter. They're very friendly. They could save you a hell of a stomach ache.
posted by Toekneesan at 1:25 PM on August 27, 2011


Why did my brain choose to read kitchenrat's comment in Steven Jesse Bernstein's voice?


Christopher Walken works too.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:30 PM on August 27, 2011


Light bulbs for the poor!
posted by ransom_k_fern at 8:41 PM on August 27, 2011


Knowing what kind of fungi typically grow in your area (derp derp) + what substrate the mushroom you're after grows on + rigorously using identification keys -- as in, using multiple guides to identify what you've collected -- make foraging safe

That's what you really have to do: know the markers for specific species -- and any dangerous lookalikes. Most people are sensible enough to take foraging very seriously (that message has really sunk in -- I can't think of another potentially dangerous activity that has so few reckless participants), but I still like to offer people a small fieldbook flip-through, challenging to guess which are poisonous. Even the cautious seem to think there's some sort of pattern but there isn't -- gilled and bolete, bright and dull, large and small, sticky and dry -- edible and poisonous mushrooms come in all shapes, sizes, and colours. You have to get to know individual species, period. That being said, loads of people do so, and safely. If you don't pick mushrooms, you may not realize how many different markers there can be (from minor physical differences -- sometimes requiring a bit of digging beneath the humus), to location, smell, and spore print. And a good guide will tell you to not even bother with a particular edible if lookalikes are too difficult to differentiate.

Back on topic: I've stumbled on bioluminescent mushrooms at night and though they were about the most magical looking thing ever.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:58 AM on August 28, 2011


Recently a number of gene transfers between species of fungus have come to light

Ha!
posted by Fizz at 4:21 AM on August 28, 2011


In the appalachian mountains we always called bioluminescent mushrooms foxfire.

Does anyone know how this phenomenon came to be associated with foxes? I wasn't able to easily dig up an etymology for "foxfire", but am intrigued because there is a similar term in Japanese (kitsune-bi) with no definite physical explanation.
posted by caaaaaam at 7:33 AM on August 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aaaaaand now I really, really want to take a mycology class. Fungi are pretty fascinating. I wonder how hardy and bright these bioluminescent mushrooms are. I wonder what the glow output is as measured by footcandles? How great would it be if they could grow in a tended substrate indoors? Screw the taplight, book lights, etc.: let's use electricity-independent fungi!
posted by smirkette at 8:30 AM on August 28, 2011


foxfire: back in the day when such things were possible, foxes gathered around fires built with embers stolen from the hearths of humans. some of them played quite well on diminutive fiddles. once the music got going, they would spend the night dancing on their hind legs and smiling at the moon. humans were somewhat frightened of these goings on and, warned by the foxfire, kept a respectable distance. in today's world of hikers, joggers, wayward senators and motorized vehicles, foxes are in full retreat, lying in their cold dens and occasionally casting a baleful eye at the moon.
posted by kitchenrat at 9:01 AM on August 28, 2011


In other mushroom news: Hurricane Irene Could Sprout Bumper Crop Of Magic Mushrooms
posted by homunculus at 10:43 AM on August 28, 2011


Gives a whole new meaning to the term "magic mushrooms".
posted by planetrain at 10:13 PM on August 28, 2011


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