Ompahlotus Nidiformis is a common fungus fruiting from summer into winter in these parts. I’m doing this post for a couple of reasons, firstly this fungus is poisonous and i will talk more about this later, secondly its easy to confuse these guys with pleurotus species or oyster mushrooms, thirdly they glow in the dark and finally i have a shot of them glowing that I’m particularly pleased with so why not share it on the interweb, who knows maybe someone else will like it too!
The Ghost fungus grows in all kinds of habitats all up and down the east coast and all the way into South Australia. They form big flushes of fruit bodies that are hard to miss in the forest, they have a whole bunch of morphs and colour variations that at times can make them a challenge to ID. When i first became interested in edible fungi I started to find these and pick them, I would bring them home and try to convince myself they were oysters, on one occasion I did such a good job that I fried some up and ate a few bits. They tasted pretty good, later that night I felt a bit crook. I had a second look at them and found they were glowing ever so faintly. Thankfully I only ate a very small amount and did not need to spend the night ridding the porcelain bus.
Omphalotus Nidiformis Are wood decomposers, they are almost always found on dead trees or roots. They are a white rot fungus that can be found anywhere from coastal scrub to mountain rain forest, in pine plantations and eucalypt woodlands. For me a key to their ID is the way the gills attach to the stem and the stem itself which is smooth and woody, often tho not always darker coloured. Picking a mushroom and examining the stem is probably the best way to ID these guys. Another key feature is the darker spot of colour in the middle of the cap. the colour itself is changeable but the spot is present most of the time directly above where the stem attaches to the cap. Their spore print is white.
The Bioluminescence of these fungi is variable. Often in this area it is very faint and sometimes non existent. I generally find that it is a very dull glow tho I have read that it can be very bright in some specimens. Its best to look for the glow at night in a very dark place and the glow will improve as our eyes adjust to the dark and our night visions kicks in. An explanation for the bioluminescence can be found here. its become a bucket list item for Aussie fungi enthusiasts to get that classic night shot which can improve the dull glow. The results can be spectacular. Scout your location during the day then return at night to get the shot.
The biochemistry of this fungus is interesting. They contain some novel chemicals with anti tumor and antibiotic properties. The chemical itself is called Illudin and is present in a couple of different forms. As an isolated compound Illudin shows selective toxicity for leukemia and some other types of cancer cells. A drug containing Illudin is able to react with cancer DNA inside the cells. Currently called Irofluven it is in phase two clinical trials. However Illudin in its natural form is toxic and can lead to GI distress and vomiting, which can last for several hours after ingestion. Its not deadly.