Top Ten Bioluminescent Plants

Top Ten Bioluminescent Plants

A sequence of three pictures showing the effect of shining a light on a cluster of fan-shaped mushrooms growing on a log. When the lights hits the mushroom cluster, it glows green; when the light is moved away, the glow disappears.

Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. Bioluminescence occurs widely in marine vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as in some fungi, microorganisms and terrestrial invertebrates. Some symbiotic organisms carried within larger organisms produce light.

  1. Honey Mushroom

    Honey fungus, or Armillaria or оpenky, is a genus of parasitic fungi that live on trees and woody shrubs. It includes about 10 species formerly lumped together as A. mellea. Armillarias are long lived and form some of the largest living organisms in the world. The largest single organism (of the species Armillaria solidipes) covers more than 3.4 square miles (8.8 km2) and is thousands of years old. Some species of Armillaria are bioluminescent and may be responsible for the phenomena known as foxfire and perhaps will o’ the wisp. As a forest pathogen, Armillaria can be very destructive. It is responsible for the “white rot” root disease of forests and is distinguished from Tricholoma (mycorrhizal) by this parasitic nature. Its high destructiveness comes from the fact that, unlike most parasites, it doesn’t need to moderate its growth in order to avoid killing its host, since it will continue to thrive on the dead material. In the Canadian Prairies (particularly Manitoba), the term “honey fungus” is unknown to many; due to the large presence of Ukrainian Canadians in this area, the fungus is often referred to as pidpenky, from the Ukrainian term, “beneath the stump.”
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  2. Mycena

           Mycena is a large genus of small saprotrophic mushrooms that are rarely more than a few centimeters in width. They are characterized by a white spore print, a small conical or bell-shaped cap, and a thin fragile stem. Most are gray or brown, but a few species have brighter colors. Most have a translucent and striate cap, which rarely has an incurved margin. The gills are attached and usually have cystidia. Some species, like Mycena haematopus, exude a latex when the stem is broken, and many have the odor of bleach. Mycenas are hard to identify to species and some are distinguishable only by microscopic features such as the shape of the cystidia. Some species are edible, while others contain toxins, but the edibility of most is not known, as they are too small to be useful in cooking. Mycena cyanorrhiza stains blue and contains the hallucinogen psilocybin and Mycena pura contains the mycotoxin muscarine. Over 33 species are known to be bioluminescent, creating a glow known as foxfire. These species are divided among 16 lineages, leading to evolutionary uncertainty in whether the luminescence developed once and was lost among many species, or evolved in parallel by several species. What, if any, benefit the fungus derives from the luminescence is uncertain. Alexander Smith’s 1947 Mycena monograph identified 232 species; the genus is now known to include about 500 species worldwide. Maas Geesteranus divided the genus into 38 sections in 1992, providing keys to each for all the species of the Northern Hemisphere. Many new species have been discovered since then, and four new sections have been proposed. Taxonomy is complex, as most sections are not truly homogeneous, and the keys fail for some species, especially those that satisfy some criteria for only part of their life cycle.
  3. Bitter Oyster
    The undersides of a cluster of about two dozen variously sized light brown-yellow, roughly fan-shaped mushroom caps growing on a piece of rotting wood. Each cap has about 2–3 dozen lightly colored thin lines of various lengths, closely spaced and arranged radially around the stem, which is connected to one side of the mushroom cap. The stem is whitish, with a width of between roughly one-third to one-fifth the diameter of the cap, and attaches the cap to the wood.A cluster of bright green glowing mushroom caps growing on a log. The remainder of the photo is dark, but suggests there are trees around.A sequence of three pictures showing the effect of shining a light on a cluster of fan-shaped mushrooms growing on a log. When the lights hits the mushroom cluster, it glows green; when the light is moved away, the glow disappears.
    Panellus stipticus, commonly known as the bitter oyster, the astringent panus, the luminescent panellus, or the stiptic fungus, is a species of fungus in the family Mycenaceae, and the type species of the genus Panellus. A common and widely distributed species, it is found in Asia, Australasia, Europe and North America, where it grows in groups or dense overlapping clusters on the logs, stumps and trunks of deciduous trees, especially beech, oak and birch. During the development of the fruit bodies, the mushrooms start out as tiny white knobs, which, over a period of one to three months, develop into fan- or kidney-shaped caps that measure up to 3 cm (1.2 in) broad. The caps are orange-yellow to brownish, and attached to the decaying wood by short stubby stalks that are connected off-center or on the side of the caps. The fungus was given its current scientific name in 1879, but has been known by many names since French mycologist Jean Bulliard first described it as Agaricus stypticus in 1783. Molecular phylogenetic analysis revealed P. stipticus to have a close genetic relationship with members of the genus Mycena. Panellus stipticus is one of several dozen species of fungi that are bioluminescent. Strains from eastern North America are typically bioluminescent, but those from the Pacific regions of North America and from other continents are not. The luminescence is localized to the edges of the gills and the junction of the gills with the stem and cap. Bioluminescence is also observable with mycelia grown in laboratory culture, and the growth conditions for optimal light production have been studied in detail. Several chemicals have been isolated and characterized that are believed to be responsible for light production. Genetic analysis has shown that luminescence is controlled by a single dominant allele. The luminescent glow of this and other fungi inspired the term foxfire, coined by early settlers in eastern and southern North America. Modern research has probed the potential of P. stipticus as a tool in bioremediation, because of its ability to detoxify various environmental pollutants.
  4. Jack-O’-Lantern Mushroom

    Omphalotus olearius, commonly known as the jack-o’-lantern mushroom, is an orange- to yellow-gill mushroom that to an untrained eye appears similar to some chanterelles, and is most notable for its bioluminescent properties. Unlike the chanterelle, the jack-o’-lantern mushroom is poisonous. While not lethal, consuming this mushroom leads to very severe cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. Complicating its toxicity is the fact that it smells and looks very appealing, to the extent that there are reports of repeat poisonings from individuals who were tempted to try them a second time.
  5. Ghost Fungus
    two funnel-shaped white mushroomsmushrooms with glowing green gills in darkness
    Omphalotus nidiformis, or ghost fungus, is a gilled basidiomycete mushroom most notable for its bioluminescent properties. It is known to occur primarily in southern Australia and Tasmania, but was reported from India in 2012. The fan- or funnel-shaped fruit bodies are up to 30 cm (12 in) across, with cream-colored caps overlain with shades of orange, brown, purple or bluish-black. The white or cream gills run down the length of the stipe, which is up to 8 cm (3 in) long and tapers in thickness to the base. The fungus is both saprotrophic and parasitic, and its fruit bodies are generally found growing in overlapping clusters on a wide variety of dead or dying trees. First described scientifically in 1844, the fungus has been known by several names in its taxonomic history. It was assigned its current name by Orson K. Miller, Jr. in 1994. Its scientific name is derived from the Latin nidus “nest,” hence ‘nest shaped.’ Similar in appearance to the common edible oyster mushroom, it was previously considered a member of the same genus, Pleurotus, and described under the former names Pleurotus nidiformis or Pleurotus lampas. Unlike oyster mushrooms, O. nidiformis is poisonous; while not lethal, its consumption leads to severe cramps and vomiting. The toxic properties of the mushroom are attributed to compounds called illudins. O. nidiformis is one of several species in the cosmopolitan genus Omphalotus, all of which have bioluminescent properties.
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  7. Links: Top 100 Plants, Top Ten Bioluminescent Animals,