Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published May 24th 2017
Glow In The Dark Mushrooms
It was one of those "pure luck" moments - a chance encounter with a Forestry SA worker that provided me with the chance to witness one of the most spectacular natural events that I've ever seen - the glow in the dark mushroom.
While on holiday in Robe recently, my friend Helen and I were talking to a Forestry SA worker. We were talking to him about photography and what we were planning on doing during our visit to the Limestone Coast and he mentioned that we should get ourselves to Glencoe if we could manage it. As Glencoe is more than 120kms from Robe, I was doubtful at first. But, once Des started to explain why we should make the trip, all previous plans went out of the window and the following day we were on the road south to Glencoe to see the Ghost Mushroom (Omphalotus Nidiformis).
We arrived with plenty of time to see the mushrooms in the daylight. We needed to familiarise ourselves with their look and their location. It was far easier than we anticipated. Forestry SA have opened a road through a radiata pine tree plantation at Glencoe. There are hundreds of the mushrooms along the signposted track. There are signs at the forest entrance as well as clear signs to mark the three best mushroom sites along the track.
We picked our spot and waited for sunset and then for the dark to settle in. Once the sun disappeared, the people came. Hundreds of people. It was reported that more than 1000 cars drove through the forest on the opening weekend alone.
There were people of all ages - kids squealing with excitement and large family groups. Mums and dads, little kids and teenagers, grandparents and everyone in between. I've never seen anything like it. All those people, there in the dark forest in the middle of nowhere. All there to see one of nature's most spectacular and rare events.
Omphalotus Nidiformis only appear and glow for a few short weeks each year. I still can't believe our luck and our timing. The forest floor was just covered in the glowing fungi - viewable to the naked eye and even more spectacular when taken on a long exposure with a camera.
In the daytime, the mushroom is a pale ghostly white with a tinge of purple. At night, they are luminescent and they glow green. Some say that you can read a page of a book by the light that is cast from them - I didn't try this for myself, but I would believe it to be true. Once your eyes become accustomed to the dark, the glow is very obvious and you become quite adept at spotting the colonies across the forest floor.
The bioluminescent glow is caused by a chemical reaction between the fungal enzymes and oxygen.
The fungi was first officially documented in Australia in 1842 by Scottish naturalist James Drummond in Perth, Western Australia.
The early settlers and indigenous people knew they existed long before James Drummond wrote about them. The glowing fungi was unusual and foreign to them and they were terrified at the sight. Horses and cattle were spooked by them too. The Aboriginal people believed that some mushrooms and toadstools are fallen stars. Falling stars were seen as evil magic in some tribes and many were fearful of them and would call the glow in the dark fungi "Chinga" - their name for a spirit.
The mushrooms are also part of cancer clinical trials - it seems that there are chemotherapeutic properties in the fungi. They are poisonous though - so be mindful not to touch them, pick them or eat them.
Get along and see these very special mushrooms if you can. The best viewing is when there is little moonlight in the sky. If you're keen to photograph them, a tripod is a necessity. I shot my photos with an f1.7 lens, high ISO and set the exposure for 60 seconds. If you go early in the evening, be prepared for the ambient light from car lights and torches to interfere with your photos. The later the better for photos is my advice - go when everyone else is asleep.
Ghost Mushroom Lane will be open to the public until late June and entry is free. There are no facilities there - no toilets and no bins. So, go before you go and take your rubbish home with you.
Where are they exactly?
Ghost Mushroom Lane is a 2.3km drive located in pine forest near Glencoe, 16kms north-west of Mount Gambier. From the Riddoch Highway/Princes Highway roundabout (near the Lady Nelson Visitor Centre in Mount Gambier), drive along the Princes Highway towards Millicent. Drive for 12kms, turn right onto Kangaroo Flat Road and then continue on for another 4.3kms, before turning right into Ghost Mushroom Lane. Large signs are at the entrance to the area and can be seen clearly from the road.