SAN FRANCISCO, July 6, 2011 -- In 1840, renowned English botanist George Gardner reported a strange sight from the streets of Vila de Natividade in Brazil: A group of boys playing with a glowing object that turned out to be a luminescent mushroom. They called it "flor-de-coco," and showed Gardner where it grew on decaying fronds at the base of a dwarf palm. Gardner sent the mushroom to the Kew Herbarium in England where it was described and named Agaricus gardneri in honor of its discoverer. The species was not seen again until 2009.
San Francisco State University researcher Dennis Desjardin and colleagues have now collected new specimens of this forgotten mushroom and reclassified it as, Neonothopanus gardneri. Findings are now online and scheduled to be published in the November/December print issue of Mycologia.
They hope that careful study of the Brazilian mushroomwhich shines brightly enough to read by--and its other bioluminescent cousins around the world will help answer the question of how and why some fungi glow.
Desjardin, a professor in ecology and evolution in the SF State Biology Department [link: http://biology.sfsu.edu] and his colleagues determined that the mushroom should be placed in the genus Neonothopanus after carefully examining the mushroom's anatomy, physiology and genetic pedigree. But capturing new specimens of the mushroom to examine was a difficult task, Desjardin said, requiring a different approach than most fungi hunting.
To catch the green glow of the bioluminescent mushroom, Desjardin and his long-time research partner in Brazil, Dr. Cassius Stevani, had to "go out on new moon nights and stumble around in the forest, running into trees," he recalled, wary of nearby poisonous snakes and prowling jaguars.
But he said advances such as digital cameras have made it easier to track down bioluminescent fungi. New cameras allow researcher
|Contact: Nan Broadbent|
San Francisco State University