Jon Singer (jonsinger) wrote,
Jon Singer

Return of the Jack-o'-Lanterns; also, Chicken of the Woods

A year or two back I noticed some orange mushrooms under a tree, not far from where I was living. I picked one up as a specimen, and on the off chance that it might be a jack-o’-lantern mushroom I examined it in the dark. It was, but not a very bright one, and my attempts to photograph the glow were pretty miserable. I posted them anyway, as glowing mushrooms are not exactly something I run into every day, and I think they’re extremely spiffy. (Not, mind you, edible — in fact, jack-o’-lanterns contain at least one fairly nasty toxin. If you’re looking for edible, that’s down at the bottom of this entry.)

Earlier today I noticed orange mushrooms again in the same area, and picked up a couple of them. This time I used a different camera, a Canon G-11. I set it to the highest ISO on the dial [3200], opened the lens as wide as it would go [f/2.8], and ran the shutter timing all the way up [15 seconds]. Even so, I had to use The GIMP to bring up the brightness and contrast to the point where the results were more or less viewable. The photo on the left includes some leakage from the little LEDs that are used as indicator lights on the camera, but the color is not far off: it’s a very orange mushroom...


There are mushrooms that glow much brighter than these, but I haven’t had the pleasure of encountering any of them yet. (Strictly speaking, that isn’t entirely accurate — I saw a culture of one in a jar once; but I didn’t see any fruiting bodies.)

These turn out to be fluorescent under longwave UV, but the color is not the green I would have expected. I also checked with a shortwave lamp, but they did very little. Here is one of them (and an edge of the other), illuminated by a 4-Watt “BLB” blacklight fluorescent tube:

(That’s as taken; I didn’t do anything to the image except scale it. I did run the camera at ISO 800, though, and it opened its shutter for a full second.)


Speaking of orange [or yellow, or sometimes sorta pink] mushrooms: if anyone sees a good specimen of “chicken of the woods” [Laetiporus sulphureus] in the region around Washington, DC, I would appreciate hearing about it as long as it is not in a protected or posted area. We do not remove things (other than the dirt on the soles of our shoes, and any burrs or leaves [etc.] that may stick to us unnoticed) from Parks except when specifically permitted to do so, and we ask permission of homeowners before desecrating the fruiting bodies of their revered & venerated [I wish] fungi. If you do not know L. sulphureus, btw, you may want to do a Websearch and check some of the images; it is usually very easy to recognize, except for a couple closely related species that are found in the western part of North America, have about the same appearance, and are known to cause gastric distress in some people... don’t say you weren’t cautioned.

Here is a poster, which unfortunately includes a photo of a specimen that I’m not entirely certain is L. sulphureus — it is a polypore, and it’s a reasonable color, albeit perhaps a bit more orange than usual, but it is not quite the usual form. (I have another version of this poster, with a splendid picture of a considerably nicer and more regular specimen; but the photo isn’t mine, and I haven’t yet asked the photographer [Axie Breen] whether I can have permission to use it.)

Tags: chicken of the woods, fluorescent mushrooms, glowing mushrooms, mycology, poster

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