Glow in the dark jack-o'-lantern mushrooms spotted in Windsor-Essex

No, it's not Halloween yet, but a special type of bright orange fungi have some mushroom enthusiasts glowing with excitement. 

Common in North American, these mushrooms are not edible

Bright orange mushrooms grow all over dead trees.
Jack-o'-lantern mushrooms growing in Devonshire Conservation Area in Windsor, Ont. The mushrooms, common in North America, glow in the dark. (Submitted by Robert Wright)

No, it's not Halloween yet, but a special type of bright orange fungi have some mushroom enthusiasts glowing with excitement. 

Jack-o'-lantern mushrooms have been spotted in the Windsor-Essex, Ont. region just in time for fall. These mushrooms are different from others because of one very interesting feature:

"They bioluminescence — they glow in the dark," said Robert Wright, a self-described mushroom enthusiast and all-around fungi forager. 

The orange mushrooms are found all over North America, but Wright said he found the mushrooms just off a path located in Devonshire Conservation Area. Wright said that they are a common sight around Windsor-Essex.

A mushroom that is glowing orange in the dark
A jack-o'-lantern mushroom that is glowing in the dark. The mushrooms have been spotted in Windsor-Essex. (Mike Evans/CBC)

Wright said he found the jack-o'-lantern mushrooms by accident as he was looking for something else.

"I was looking for chicken of the woods mushrooms which can be bright orange as well and they have some of the same growing areas as the jack-o'-lantern mushroom," he said.

"I saw a little bit of orange, backed up a little bit and saw more orange and thought, 'Wow, I found the motherload of chicken of the woods.'"

Picked, bright-orange mushrooms with what looks like a very long winding root sit on a log.
Jack-o'-lantern mushrooms are not edible, according to a fresh mushroom seller. (Submitted by Robert Wright)

Upon closer inspection, Wright had found the jack-o'-lantern mushrooms instead.

The mushroom variety is in parts of Michigan as well, said Denis Vidmar, owner of The Mush Hub, a mushroom retailer. But he cautions people who want to eat it.

"Sadly, they're inedible," said Vidmar. "[They're] toxic and can really turn your stomach upside down."

Vidmar says the jack-o'-lantern can be mistaken for another type of mushroom.

"A lot of people will mistake it when going hunting for the chanterelle mushroom," he said.

A mushroom that is glowing greeen in the dark
No one seems to know why the mushrooms glow in the dark, though there are some theories, says Wright. (Submitted by Robert Wright)

As to why the jack-o'-lantern mushrooms glow in the dark, Wright says there are multiple theories, but he has one of his own.

"The insects would then get spores all over them because the mushroom, this particular mushroom, grows from the gills," Wright said. "I don't know if that's true or not, but I'll leave that to the experts."

Light orange mushrooms growing on a log
The jack-o'-lantern mushroom is commonly mistaken for chicken of the woods, due to the similar colour. (Submitted by Robert Wright)

Wright says he had to be patient to get pictures that showed the bioluminescence of the mushrooms. 

"Since there was one there, I thought, 'I'll take it home and I'll do a little experiment,'" said Wright. "I set it up in the basement in the dark. I put it on a piece of tinfoil so that any light that did come from it would be obvious. I then set up a timed exposure for about 9 minutes. When I turned the camera back on and booted it up onto the computer, there was an image there."

With files from Windsor Morning and Mike Evans

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