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Night brings with it a sense of enigma. Darkness, and everything associated, is one such thing. This is more pronounced because of the fear instilled in us during our formative years. The familiar path that we tread with ease during daytime, under the cover of darkness, is full of ‘hurdles’ that often don’t physically exist. This primarily is due to our dependence on our vision. It also prevents us from exploring our environment under the night sky. For most urbanites who are used bright light even after sunset, it is a world that does not exist.

Imagine yourself in the midst of a dense forest with no torch to guide you along the path. The only available light is the faint glow of the night sky to vaguely light your path. Close your eyes for a long second. And, when you open your eyes, you see streaks of faint green glow on the forest floor. Look hard and you will see that some tree limbs around you have the same eerie glow. So much so that it sends a shiver down your spine.

When your eyes are used to the dark  you see the forest floor scattered with the eerie glow!

When your eyes are used to the dark you see the forest floor scattered with the eerie glow!

 

For those who are not aware of the presence of bioluminescent fungi, it can be spooky. But for the informed, who has been aching to see this phenomenon– it is a treat. You shine the torch and you see a normal dry twig. Switch it off and get used to the darkness… you see the twig glow again!

Twigs on the forest floor - it looks like any other twig under normal light.

Twigs on the forest floor – it looks like any other twig under normal light.

 

The same twig in the dark!

The same twig in the dark once your eyes get accustomed to the darkness!

 

I have in the past written about glow worms where I have discussed some aspects of bioluminescence and also mentioned that the light produced by these creatures does not produce heat.

The bioluminescent fungus too produces the faint glow in a process which is akin to that used by the glow worm. The growing part of the body of the fungi (hyphae) which is present in decaying plant matter is responsible for the glow.

Only about 70 species of fungi are known to be bioluminescent. This is a very small number if you considered the diversity of fungi in the world – over 70,000 known species! Why they glow, what benefit they derive is not very clear. However, some preliminary observations suggest that the bioluminescence could attract insects which help in dispersing spores!

A recent attempt to better previous results at capturing this beautiful phenomenon.

A recent attempt to better previous results at capturing this beautiful phenomenon.

 

Like the bioluminescent fungi, there are a lot of organisms that are best seen and appreciated under the cover of darkness. Resist the urge to switch on that torch. Step outside your comfort zone – at least once in a while. And enjoy what Nature has to offer.

  • Ketan Pandya

    Amazing and informative! We always learn, many things from your articles! Thanks for sharing.

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      My pleasure Ketan. Good to note that you find them useful.

  • Sriharsha Ganjam

    Lovely Write up Sir! It definitely is a treat for the eyes to watch these glowing twigs. What you say about the darkness is so true.

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Sriharsha. Your work on these fungi is no mean achievement.

  • http://muhive.com/ Ritesh M Nayak

    Where do you find these fungi? I would love to actually see this in person.

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Hello Ritesh!

      These fungi were photographed in the Western Ghats. Areas with heavy rainfall should be good places to look for during the monsoons. I have seen them in a few places.

  • Aishwarya

    perfect Halloween blog :) Does this happen in any particular forest or just about everywhere?

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Aishwarya. Like I have said in my response to Ritesh they seem to have a fairly wide distribution. One just needs to look for them I guess.

  • Kesava Murthy

    Wonderful post as always. I have seen amazing amount of these beauties in Amboli.

  • http://desitraveler.com/ Prasad Np aka desi Traveler

    This is really interesting to know. Hopefully I will see them one of these days in a forest… I guess this should be a wet forest?

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Yes. Wet forests from what we know.

  • http://theforestspirit.wordpress.com/ Anisha Jayadevan

    Glow-in-the-dark fungi! Amazing. Thank you for this post, Karthik. :)

  • Deepa Mohan

    I’ve not seen them often, and had never been able to document them so well. Thanks Karthik!

    • Santosh bs

      Deepa, you missed it in Goa last year on the night trail, only me and Girish witnessed the magic :)

  • Uma K

    Simply awesome!! There is so much wonder in Nature!! Thanks for yet another informative and very interesting post! The last pic is fabulous!

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Uma. Can’t agree with you more.

  • Vineith Malabaricus

    Well documented Karthik! So this is the secret you were talking about!! I am one of those who is aching to see them :)

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks. I did not know I was holding it as a secret ! Hope you get to see this incredible phenomena.

  • Santosh bs

    Wow!, had seen them last year in Goa when we met you and recently the video by Sriharsha/Ashwini was mind blowing!

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Santosh. Lovely video indeed.

  • Lakshmi Sharath

    Here after a long time and what a treat ! thanks for the post and pictures…

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Lakshmi. Hope this is good to make sure you come back periodically !

  • GT

    Fabulous Karthik…. hope to see and experience them in person as well…

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks GT. Spend some time in the wet season (even if you have to get wet) and you stand a good chance !

  • Ashwini Kumar

    Excellent post Karthik. All your words are so true about the feeling of seeing them in Nature.

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Thanks Ashwini Kumar. One has to see it to believe it. It is hard to describe it in words.

  • Ravindra M.N

    Thank you karthik for this glowing info! really lit up my mind’s bulb:) Never knew such a thing existed!

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Nice pun !

  • Mittal Gala

    Hi Kartik, nice post and beautiful pictures. I have seen some bioluminscent (alage, i believe) on the beach. They are very minute particles mixed with sand. I think they get washed up on the shore by the waves. We collected handful of sand and picked up gently the particles which were glowing.Every time we rubbed it between our fingers it would glow. We collected some 3-4 particles in a small ziplock bag to take it back and view under a microscope but by the time we reached it had stopped glowing.

    • http://wildwanderer.com/ Karthikeyan S

      Wow ! That would be interesting. You will find more examples of bioluminescence in marine organisms than in terrestrial ones. I would not be sure as to what you have seen. But sounds very exciting though.

  • sangeetha

    Brilliant !! New piece of info to me ! In awe ! thank you! :)