New bioluminescent mushroom species discovered in Meghalaya

A bright green light-emitting mushroom has been discovered at Mawlynnong in East Khasi Hills district and at Krang Shuri in West Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. The tiny mushrooms were found covering dead bamboo in the forest. Local residents use the glowing bamboo sticks as natural torches to navigate the forest at night.

The mushroom is a new species from the genus Roridomyces — and the first fungus in this genus to be discovered from India. It is named phyllostachydis, after the genus of the bamboo tree on which it was found. It is now one among the 97 known species of bioluminescent fungi in the world.

Roridomyces phyllostachydis’ uniqueness lies in the fact that it is the only member in its genus to emit light from its stipe (stalk). The pileus (cap) is not bioluminescent, the reason for which is still a mystery.

Bioluminescence attracts insects, which helps in dispersing spores or it may also be a mechanism for protection against frugivorous (fruit-eating) animals.

“Light emits when the compound luciferans is catalysed by the enzyme luciferase in the presence of oxygen… several unstable, intermediate products are released as excess energy that makes them visible as light,” a researcher said.

These findings could pave the way for the development of glowing plants for use in organic architecture and street lighting.