Living Lanterns: Discovering Bioluminescent Mushrooms in Texas
Finding the Southern Jack-o-Lantern at Pedernales Falls State Park.
Years had passed since I last set foot in Texas. Having called New Zealand home, I felt a pang of anxiety at the thought of leaving the native bush that had become an integral part of my life. The allure of the forest, particularly during mushroom season, tugged at my heartstrings.
Curious about the fungal life in Austin, I consulted iNaturalist and crafted a list of species to seek out. At the top was Omphalotus subilludens, a mushroom I managed to find amidst an arid November landscape. Halloween had come and gone, but the orange glow of the Jack-o-lantern mushrooms remained.
My family and I journeyed to Pedernales Falls, a place that evoked fond memories of childhood escapes to the hill country. This time, however, I was consumed with the pursuit of the Southern Jack-o-lantern, guided by a single iNaturalist observation.
As hours passed and hope waned, I was on the verge of abandoning my quest. Yet, as we neared the parking lot, a flash of orange caught my eye. I rushed toward a Texas Cedar and found a solitary Omphalotus subilludens. Success! There's an uncanny magic in the way a species can appear before us, as if summoned by our thoughts and desires.
The image above captures the captivating bioluminescence of this species' gills, a glowing reminder of nature's wonders and the enchanting allure of the fungi that populate our world.
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