Do Morels Glow Under Blacklight? (Solved & Explained!)

There are many methods people use to hunt down morel mushrooms, one of which is using a light to locate them easier at night. One type of light though, of which many inquire about yet there isn’t really a good answer, is using a blacklight. They might be able to glow under a blacklight, but some people say no.

What Is the Controversy about Morels Glowing Under Blacklight?

The main problem with understanding whether morels glow under blacklight or not is that there is no definitive evidence for it. While some people claim to be able to find these morsels of delectability with a blacklight, others report having absolutely no success.

Traditional Blacklights & LED Lights

And the ones who claim a blacklight will work raise further questions because a traditional blacklight isn’t portable. These require a wall outlet or some other strong electrical current to power on.

With advancements in LED illumination, there’s the potential to create portable blacklights. But, no one has really experimented on morels with it yet. If there has been such an experiment, the results are not yet public.

Is It Common for Morels to Glow?

Since many mushrooms contain high levels of phosphorus, including morels, it does cause some of them to glow. But this isn’t a constant and it’s dependent upon many factors. Genetic makeup and DNA are major parts. However, this also includes soil conditions, location and constituent makeup.

Some Evidence of Glowing

So, while it’s possible for morel mushrooms to glow, this isn’t their status quo. If they do, it means there’s a high level of phosphorus through their genetics. The most proof and evidence we have of this is from a Facebook post by Woodland Jewel Mushrooms on April 1st, 2015.

They collected several specimens of morels near Clinton, SC on March 22nd. They found the morels glowing during the drying process with the intention of collecting spores. The mushrooms were on a bed of foil and lightly covered with paper toweling. They came to find them by chance walking past them in the night.

Possible Light-Emitting Bacteria

The post postulates the theory that the cups, which are what illuminated, contain a light-emitting bacterium often seen in benthic dwelling fish. Whether this is a new species or something not observed before is still up for debate, but it does demonstrate that morels can and do have the capacity to glow.

Will Morels Glow Under Any Other Light?

While it would seem practical and reasonable to use a black light to see a morel glow, it’s shouldn’t be necessary if it does so naturally. When it glows, there will be compounds to produce the luminescence. Therefore, you should be able to catch it in the dark or with the help of a regular light.

Spotting a Faint Glow

LED lights seem to be the best way to locate morels at night. But this doesn’t guarantee that they will glow. You may come across a patch that has a shimmery type of glow because of the light cast on it. But, this doesn’t denote actual glowing.

So, if you come across a glowing morel with your flashlight, it’s about the mushroom’s makeup and constituents rather than a reaction to the light itself. However, sometimes a light angled in the right way can help to spot a patch. This is due to the brief glowing-type flash that can occur from time to time.

What Makes Mushrooms Glow?

Glowing mushrooms, also known as bioluminescent fungi, are a very frequent occurrence in nature. While it’s a hit or miss with morel mushrooms, other species have a constant and consistent glow. However, different species glow in various ways and means.

Phosphorus, Bacteria & Luciferase

We know phosphorus and luminescent bacteria can cause glowing, but there are other compounds too. For instance, luciferase is an enzymatic compound found in many sea creatures and fireflies. This is a chemical produced by the organism that allows it to control its ability to glow.

Luciferase-Luciferin Process

Several species of mushrooms have luciferase such as jack o’ lantern mushrooms. However, they can’t control the glow in the same way as insects and animals can. Other than that, we don’t know why mushrooms glow, how they evolved to become this way or what purpose it serves.

A mushroom’s glow involves a two-stage metabolic process. Lucifern, a substance that emits light, experiences reduction by luciferase via oxidization which is what releases a greenish-blue glow. The amazing thing is that it’s entirely efficient and it doesn’t generate heat.

Are All Glowing Mushrooms Poisonous?

Out of all 75 species of glowing mushrooms, only one is poisonous to eat and handle.  This is the Omphalotus olearius, or jack o’ lantern mushroom. It looks just like a chanterelle mushroom but they have sharp, non-forking gills. Plus, unlike chanterelles, they grow in large clusters.

These Mushrooms Are Toxic

However, this mushroom’s ability to glow using luciferase is what distinguishes them from their chanterelle lookalikes. Jack o’ lanterns even smell like chanterelles, but they contain a toxin called illudin S, which is poisonous for people to eat.

It’s not likely that jack o’ lanterns will kill you or cause deathly illness, but they do produce severe cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. For those allergic to spores, the experience can be so devastating that it may require immediate medical attention.

Glow-In-The-Dark Paint

That said, artists may take a particular interest in finding these fungi. If you are careful and wear a pair of gloves, you can harvest jack o’ lantern mushrooms for the purposes of creating glow-in-the-dark paint. This is a delicate and involved process, but it is worth considering since it will allow you some of the greatest creative flexibility.

Is It Okay to Eat a Glowing Mushroom?

While it should be okay to eat a glowing mushroom found in the woods, you should still observe some caution. If you aren’t 300% sure of the identity of the mushroom, do not touch or eat it.