The mysterious case of glowing mushrooms in Meghalaya forests

New Delhi (NVI): Nature never ceases to amaze or surprise us with its secrets. A new variety of mushrooms has been discovered in the forests of Northeast India during a mushroom documentation project which glows like the northern lights!

The project has revealed not only 600 varieties of fungi, but also led to a new discovery: a bioluminescent — or light-emitting — variety of mushroom.

This new species of mushroom looks ordinary in the day. But at night, they glow green. Researchers spotted the bioluminescent fungus on dead bamboo trees in the forests of Meghalaya.

Named Roridomyces phyllostachydis, the new species was first sighted near a stream in Meghalaya’s Mawlynnong in East Khasi Hills district and later at Krang Shuri in West Jaintia Hills district. It is now one among the 97 known species of bioluminescent fungi in the world.  

A team of scientists from India and China undertook the project in the monsoon months in Assam. They were surprised to discover a vast variety of fungi in the region that was not discovered so far. The team, after hearing reports from locals of “electric mushrooms”, headed to West Jaintia Hills District in Meghalaya.

A local person guided the team to a bamboo forest and asked them to switch off their torches. The group was awestruck by what they saw, a strange green glow on dead bamboo sticks.

This fungus, present in the bamboo forests in the West Jaintia Hills District in Meghalaya, emits its own light, called bioluminescence. Bioluminescence is the property of a living organism to produce and emit light. In the case of fungi, the luminescence comes from the enzyme, luciferase.

However, the fungus were found growing on dead bamboo, which requires more research.

-ARK