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All Aglow About - FOXFIRE  RSS feed

 
Karen Donnachaidh
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Location: Virginia (zone 7)
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I've searched the forums here for any information on this wonderful fungal phenomena. I see lots of posts about the Foxfire book series, which I have and love. I inherited my mother's set. I have been to the Foxfire Museum in Mountain City, Georgia. I had a great week there. But what about the fungi called "foxfire"? Maybe we can hear from our guest this week,Peter McCoy,about this type of fungi.
I have only found foxfire once in my life, it was about 25 years ago. I, along with my partner at the time, had a mountain ash at the edge of our yard that was rotten and needed to be taken down. We sawed it to a low stump and busted up the stump with a mattock. That night the whole area was glowing a beautiful blue-green color. I gathered lots of pieces and lined the wallcap of my bedroom that night. The next morning I took a piece of it with me to work. I got my friends together and told them, " Come into the bathroom with me, you've got to see this." I turned out the light and it still had a faint glow. The glow dimmed more as the day went on. I read somewhere after that , that if I had re-wet the wood or buried it again for awhile it would have continued to glow. BUT I think I killed it. I've since read, the wood needs to be wet but not too wet because that could decrease its oxygen. The oxygen is necessary for the process which causes the phosphorescent ability. It is believed to be more prevalent in years where there has been a wet winter and spring and when temperatures reach about 71 degrees.
Wikipedia describes foxfire as: Foxfire, also sometimes called "fairy fire", is the bioluminescence created by some species of fungi present in decaying wood. The bluish-green glow is attributed to luciferase, an oxidative enzyme, which emits light as it reacts with luciferin. It is widely believed that the light attracts insects to spread spores, or acts as a warning to hungry animals, like the bright colors exhibited by some poisonous or unpalatable animal species.[1] Although generally very dim, in some cases foxfire is bright enough to read by.[2]
An interesting fact about foxfire, it was used as a means to illuminate the needles of the barometer and compass on the first submarine (" Turtle" was built in 1775 by American David Bushnell to help fight the British Royal Navy in the American Revolutionary War.)
For those who have access to the Foxfire books, in Book 9, chapter 1 is titled "Foxfire - What is it?" In this chapter it quotes Billy Joe Stiles, a biology teacher at the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, and his student Curt Haban as saying: "When wood or a stump is decomposing, certain fungi or mushrooms grow within the wood to aid the decomposition process. All mushrooms start their lives in the form of spores, which later grow to what are called buttons, young mushrooms. These spores (numbering in the hundreds of millions) can grow on a decomposing stump....it lives off the wood or stump itself like a saprophyte. It is the mycelium ( one mass of branching thread like filaments that form its main growing structure) of the young mushrooms, or button that glows- not the full-grown mushroom."
Further research by the two afore mentioned has suggested that, "It is possible for the excess energy left in a stuml or piece of wood from a lifetime of absorbing light energy to be released in the form of phosphorescence as the stump decomposes IF the correct fungi are present.... Therefore not every plant and not every piece of decomposing wood glows."
Has anyone here at Permies experienced foxfire? Please let me know.
To our guest this week, Peter McCoy, please add to this your expert knowledge, if you please.
 
Glenn Herbert
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I haven't seen it often, but I have found rotting logs several times in my woods that glowed beautifully, especially when disturbed.
 
allen lumley
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- I live about 200 miles north of Glenn, (To paraphrase Sarah Pallen- We can see Canuck-istan from our front porch- ) Foxfire is a common observation in ''Well rotten''/Moist

Hardwood? Stumps and Organic Debris. A couple of weeks of shirtsleeve only temps at night should give anyone in N. America a chance to see the Foxfires green glow !

The 1st requirement is to Eschew any flashlights, and allow at least a good 1/2 hour for the eyes to adapt to low-light conditions. Combine a Night of Star-watching in a woods

opening with retreat into the woods and kick a couple of stumps !

Consider this an activity that requires safety glasses- to don't want to get-poked-in-the-eye-with-a-sharp-stick, and a couple of walking sticks to assure good balance seems

a good safe bet !

For the Crafts ! Big AL

Late Note - I do remember a elementary classmate who had some luck with including Foxfire inoculated material inside sealed Terrariums . The idea would be to wake up in

the middle of the night and see a few points of faint glow- It might serve to re-orient you to the room you were in- but could not be brits enough to make a true night light !
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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Posts: 596
Location: Virginia (zone 7)
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If I'm ever lucky enough to find more I'm going to try to spread the spores to other decaying peices of wood. I've recently started a Back to Eden garden, it would-be cool to have it glowing in my wood chips.
 
Peter McCoy
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Hi Karen,
Not too much I can add. Around 75 mushrooms special produce visible bioluminescence. A common source of foxfire are the rhizomorphs (thick mycelial strands) of Honey mushrooms (Armillaria spp.). Many other fungi produce invisible light that can penetrate cardboard and be picked up by photographic plates.

Cheers
Peter
 
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