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Springbrook Research Centre
Page last updated 26 Jul 2013
Springbrook Research Centre
Luminous Ghost Fungus
omp_003_240405_sm.jpg (10955 bytes) Omphalotus nidiformis (Berk.)

O.K.Mill. Mycol. Helv. 6: 93 (1994)

Daytime photo side view
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omp_002_240405_sm.jpg (10586 bytes) Daytime photo top view
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18-02-2013

A magnificent specimen of Omphalotus Nidiformis at the Springbrook Research Centre.
Author beside this magnificent display of Omphalotus.
It was noticed at night on a hillside in the rainforest on our property.
It has been an unusual year climate-wise and different plants are fruiting out of season, the specimen above being no exception. Omphalotus usually fruits around May-June in the cooler weather. This year however it has decided to fruit mid-Summer. This tree produces enough light at night to easily read a newspaper from the light of the fungi.

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SRC_Omp_1153sm.jpg (7467 bytes) Digital image by torchlight of a specimen grown in 24 hour darkness.

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SRC_Omp_1152nsm.jpg (4517 bytes) Digital image in night mode of the same specimen as above grown in 24 hour darkness.

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April1505sm.jpg (12533 bytes)

Nightime photo
35mm photo, 5min time exposure.
The fruit bodies do not produce enough bioluminescence to enable a DVD video camera to hold focus. 35mm photography gives better results.

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Have you ever seen a tree glowing in the dark?
This tree found
15-01-2004 covered with Omphalotus nidiformis provided a brilliant display. Very bright green glow visible from 100m away through the rainforest.
The tree although still alive was hollow and partially rotten at near ground level.   It fell during a storm recently and to carry on observations the trunk was cut into 2m long billets and laid on above ground pipe racks to discourage rainforest snail damage to fruit bodies.

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Same tree taken at night


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14-04-2005
The same 2m long billets cut from the fallen tree above and kept on above ground racks, fruiting 15 months later both through the bark and from the core wood.
The emergence of fruit bodies this year has been delayed due to the exceptionally low rainfall experienced during the summer months.

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This tree was found 30-03-2007 with a new colony of Omphalotus nidiformis.

Specimens have been taken for propogation.

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Same tree at night.

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21-02-2009

Omphalotus nidiformis specimen taken for spore extraction.
(topside view)

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omp210209u_sm.jpg (18599 bytes)

21-02-2009

Omphalotus nidiformis specimen taken for spore extraction.
(underside view)

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23-02-2009

Omphalotus nidiformis spores.
Photo= 10x through a CMOS_CCD camera

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23-02-2009

Omphalotus nidiformis spores.
Photo=  40x through a CMOS_CCD camera

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omp230209_43_sm.jpg (2190 bytes)

12-04-2009

Omphalotus nidiformis (topside) successfully grown at the Springbrook Research Centre.
The deformation of the usual funnel shape is due to rapid growth and the lack of sunlight during the current extended and well above average wet season.
12-04-2009

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omp230209_43_sm.jpg (2190 bytes)

12-04-2009

Omphalotus nidiformis (underside) successfully grown at the Springbrook Research Centre .
The deformation of the usual funnel shape is due to rapid growth and the lack of sunlight during the current extended and well above average wet season.
12-04-2009

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omp_BJ1_sm.jpg (10752 bytes)

Nightime photo

Time exposure photo by Belinda Janke..


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omp_BJ14_sm.jpg (11851 bytes)

Nightime photo

Time exposure photo by Belinda Janke..


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03-05-2009

Large variant specimen of
Omphalotus nidiformis
(note the blue-grey colouration of the stipe)

(topside view)

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omp030509_2_sm.jpg (20011 bytes)

03-05-2009

Large variant specimen of
Omphalotus nidiformis
(note the blue-grey colouration of the stipe)

(underside view)

Click the image for a larger view
Common Name: Ghost Fungus    ( Ab: Chinga )
Synonym: Omphalotus nidiformis.
Pileus The cap is cream in colour though often tinted with orange in the centre.
Specimens growing at Springbrook are generally 100 to 150 mm in diameter and are funnel-shaped with inrolled margins only if growing in sunlight where they develop a hardened pileus.   They become inverse in appearance with sometimes upturned margins if growing in total shade with high humidity.Under these conditions the flesh is s
oft and easily damaged. Softer specimens degenerate rapidly when cut. Odor mild when fresh, pungent/musty/putrid odour when decaying.
Author note: there are just too many variations of Omphalotus growing in this area to be categorised as nidiformis. I am currently studying and propogating no less than three distinctly different shapes/colours and sizes of Omphalotus, and when I am satisfied will categorise and give new names to the other two varieties as new species.
Lamellae Cream-white gills are decurrent if growing in sunlight can be the most luminescent part of the fruitbody due to the hardening of the pileus.
Stipe Can be central to lateral in its attachment to the cap and is up to 8 cm long and tapers to the base.
Spores spores white in deposit.
Mycelia Bioluminescence is not particularly noticable on external log surfaces , but is sometimes quite remarkable when very wet soft rotting logs are split open at night after fruiting has finished particularly in seasons of very high rainfall.
Habitat Found widely along the Great Dividing Range from as far north as the Queensland border ranges to the south along the coastline around to Perth in West Australia. Usually clustered on the soft rotting portions of living or dead trees, or on stumps, of trees such as Eucalyptus, Leptospermum, Banksia, Grevillea, also on exotic Pinus and Platanus.
Edibility Poisonous, causing severe vomiting within a couple of hours of ingestion.
Comments Generally fruits after periods of prolonged wet summer weather in Queensland usually in the Autumn. In order to achieve any longevity it needs shade and very high humidity.

wet2005.jpg (15205 bytes)

04-01-2003   (Top view)
This brightly glowing specimen found growing at ground level on the root buttress of a bull-oak was 'rescued' for further observation from the beetles, slugs and rainforest snails.

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04-01-2003   (Side view)

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Note the insects in between the folds of the hymenium. These small insects are actually laying eggs to hatch on the host plant.

06-01-2003  
(same specimen as above)

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Note the newly hatched insect lavae having their first meal on this decomposing Omphalotus specimen. Only a few nights have passed since the insects were noticed in between the folds of the hymenium.

omp_006_050505_sm.jpg (7364 bytes) 05-05-2005

Omphalotus nidiformis mycelium
generated from tissue culture 20-04-2005.
8 days growth of replate on MYA.

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omp_007_050505_sm.jpg (7439 bytes) 05-05-2005

Omphalotus nidiformis mycelium
generated from spore 20-04-2005.
15 days growth in a 500ml jar on MYA.

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Common Name: Ghost Fungus

This and other clustering specimens found on the walkway to our glow worm colony has a funnel-shaped pileus (cap) being cream in colour with a darker colouration in the centre of yellow to brown. The gills are white and the spore print initially white turns light brown within a short period.
It is unusual to find this fungus on the Springbrook Plateau, in fact this is the first time an abundance of same has been recorded here in the past 20 years.

This fungus seems to prefer initially colonising live tree butts at ground level and extending upwards.

The luminescence it displays to the eye at night looks a very pale silvery-green colour, but when photographed it appears darker green.
Unlike the Mycena varieties we are studying, the luminescence of this ghost fungus when looking down at a ground level specimen is quite faint and can easily be mistaken as moonlight reflection. This is due to the thick fleshy pileus being hardened by weathering and sunlight, subduing the luminescence through the pileus. When viewed from below the luminescence is quite bright, although not as bright as the Mycena species of mushroom. Specimens grown outside and above ground in partial tree shaded conditions develop a hard crusty tan coloured pileus membrane and can remain alive for up to 8 days if not attacked by snails and crickets. Specimens fruiting in total darkness in a controlled environment (stable temperature and humidity) do not develop this crusty membrane, remaining almost pure white and consequently display much brighter luminescence although for a shorter period of time (4 days).

The extraordinary ravenous insect and snail feeding activity brought about whenever these fungi appear is possibly why more sightings of this fungus are not reported.
For example, a specimen of around 100mm diameter growing in the wild would last about 4 hours before being devoured by giant rainforest snails, beetles, bush cockroaches and giant crickets.
Tree growing specimens above ground level have a better chance of longevity.

Articles previously published external to this site suggest it is poisonous to humans if eaten.

The luminousity of this fungus attracts a variety of nocturnal insects and gastropods, the more noticeable being rainforest snails, bush cockroaches, beetles and crickets that eagerly devour it's soft flesh.
Some species of small insects also use this fungus as a breeding ground as the fungus decomposes.
Perhaps it is best that the insect life do indeed devour the Ghost fungus as if left standing in an enclosed environment as it decomposes,  it exudes a foul odour that would severely test the most hardened sense of smell.

Aboriginal connection.
Word of mouth handed down  through the Koombumerri people was that they would hunt in our area during the day, but would not camp here at night due to the luminous fungi. They believed the luminous fungi to be the spirits of their ancestors and it was supposedly disrespectful to look upon them.

Here we have a giant rainforest snail
making very short work of a ghost fungus. This is the fate that befalls most luminous fungi on Springbrook.
Apology for the quality as this shot was taken at night by pen-light.

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The White Kneed cricket (Papuastus sp) can grow up to 8cm long. They live in smooth-walled burrows in the soil during the day. They pull leaf litter over the entrance of their tunnels to conceal them.
• Their hindlegs are very powerful and they can leap several metres if disturbed. They emerge at night to roam the forest floor and feed on decaying organic matter, although in season they prefer luminous mushrooms. They have large, strong jaws which they use to kill small creatures in the leaf litter.

Thorny crickets also eagerly devour the luminous fungi.
In the wet season thorny crickets after gorging on the soft flesh of the mushroom, have been observed glowing in the dark, and leaving luminous "footprints" on the wet soil behind them.
Photo taken at night by pen-light.

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G.Maguire

 

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