Some mushrooms glow in the dark and emit a green light similar that produces light. The difference is that the mushroom sends out a steady light whereas the firefly’s light is reactive. The colors are different as well. The bioluminescent mushrooms can be found in tropical forests in the Americas, Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia, and South Africa.

Why does this light occur? Joanna Klein, (April 2017), explains that a “molecule called luciferin interacts with oxygen . . creating chemical energy that is eventually released in the form of cold light.”  She says that only a fraction of mushrooms glow in the dark—of the about 100,000 species of mushrooms, only about 80 are bioluminescent.

Below are a few of the glow in the dark mushrooms:

  • Hato-no-hi, or pigeon fire, glow during the rainy season (May through September) in the Japanese island of Hachijo-jima
  • Neonthopanus gardneri, or flor de coco, grows in the Atlantic forest of southern Brazil
  • Omphalotus olearius, or jack-o’-lantern, grow in the southern Applachian Mountains in June through September
  • Panellus stipticus, or bitter oyster, grow in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. It grows in groups or dense overlapping clusters on the logs, stumps, and trunks of trees like beech, birch, and oak
  • Armillaria mellea, or honey fungus, produces mushrooms at the base of trees that it infects. The foliage is discolored. The mushrooms are edible but some people may be intolerant to them.

The light the mushrooms emit continue until their metabolism shuts down as a result of death and decay. Until that happens, however, you can catch a spectacular light show by nature!


Klein, Joanna. “Hunting Mushrooms, and What Makes Some Glow in the Dark.” New York Times (New York, NY), April 27, 2017. Accessed August 12, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/27/science/glow-in-the-dark-mushrooms-bioluminescence.html.

Norris, Anna. “Bioluminescent fungi: 12 mushrooms that glow in the dark.” Mother Nature Network. Last modified April 25, 2015. Accessed August 12, 2017. https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/blogs/bioluminescent-fungi-12-mushrooms-that-glow-in-the-dark.

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