In some of the deep dark forests of the world, the ground glows as you walk down the trail. This is a result of fungi that live in the rotting wood on the forest floor. Unlike most other bioluminescent organisms, the biological purpose of glowing fungus is less understood.

Some hypothesize that it is used to attract the insects that eat it and thus help to spread its spores. Others believe it is to repel predators, as the glow is considered a sign of toxicity by many creatures. Bioluminescent fungi are most common in the topics, but they are also quite prevalent in the Appalachian mountains, where they are known locally as ‘foxfire’, and can often be observed on moonless nights in autumn.

Found largely in temperate and tropical climates, currently there are known more than 75 species of bioluminescent fungi, all of which are members of the order Agaricales (Basidiomycota). All known bioluminescent Agaricales are mushroom-forming, white-spored agarics that belong to four distinct evolutionary lineages.


N. gardneri mushrooms grow at the base of young babassu palms in Brazil. A bland tan by day, the fungi emit an eerie green light by night.

Glowing Mushrooms


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