Friday, February 04, 2011

Foxfire: A Surreal Experience!


I was on a night-time run with my dog on the backroads near my house in early August of 2010 and saw an eerie, greyish-bluish-green glow coming from a spot about 50 yards into the woods. Knowing that area to be too densely wooded and too sloped for camping I was a little weirded out but figured that someone had drunkenly wandered into the woods and maybe passed out with a flashlight or cellphone turned on and I was concerned (people stop on that road frequently to drink or dump trash unfortunately). My dog usually reacts to the presence of another creature or person and he did not even register any sort of acknowledgement of whatever was causing the light. I called toward the light to see if anyone was there, the woods remained stone-silent. At this point the every hair on my body began to stand on end and my pulse started racing. This scared me a lot, having never encountered it before, but my curiousity was just a little bit stronger than my fear. I turned on my flashlight and with a death-grip on my dog's collar started slowly walking into the woods. When I got to the area where I figured the light had been coming from I saw nothing at all, not even a hint of a glow. With my brain and heart both amped up from the fear I did not know what to think. I really didn't want to but figured the best way to get another glimpse of the glow was to douse the flashlight. Upon covering the flashlight with my hand I was both stunned and amazed by what sat directly six feet in front of me: my first ever bioluminescent fungus discovery. I had no idea that this sort of thing occurred in environments other than tropical & temperate zones. Having studied and marveled at it for a few minutes I then ran home as fast as my legs could carry me to grab my camera.

Upon further study I determined that the species of the fungus is probably the immature form of Panellus Stipticus just barely starting to culture in the moist, freshly exposed wood of this fallen birch tree, having not formed true caps yet. It is also one of the species often referred to colloquially as 'Foxfire' but I have yet to confirm this.

Following is a progression of pictures alternating normal flash exposures with the same shots taken in the dark. The only thing different from the pictures was that the glow was more of a pale bluish green and it saturated the wood more thoroughly than in the pictures, the camera apparently only picked up the green spectrum. These are all 15-second exposures with a 2.4 aperture setting, 1600 ISO.

The other amazing thing about this is the very narrow margin of conditions which it requires to actually glow. Temperatures need to be about in the high-30s - high 40s with the humidity, type of wood, level of degradation of the wood as well as the time of year being just right. I feel very fortunate to have seen this.

1 comment:

Chuck said...

Way cool!!! Great pictures. I can imagine the heart pounding in a situation like that. I've been in similar situations at my dad's place in Freedom NH all alone in the middle of nowhere and something strange happens. It kind of REALLY lets you know you are alive!