Penellus Stipticus, a bioluminescent fungus or foxfire fungus.

A Glowing Encrustation of Penellus Stipticus

Sometimes those crazy things we see in games which are too good to be true, have more than an ounce of truth in them.  Those CG scenes of Pandora that so wowed 3d audiences showing an alien landscape more alive in the dark, than during the day – had some small element of more terrestrial lifeforms at their heart.  Bioluminescent fungi like Panellus Stipticus.

The utterly gob-smacking photograph above (from the Wikimedia Commons, and by Ylem) is a long exposure photograph of the surprisingly widespread Panellus Stipticus fungus – found in Asia, Australasia, Europe and North America, and one of 71 currently known bioluminescent, or fluorescing, fungi.  It gladdened my heart to see that it’s so widespread, because it means that if I were to buy a kit, or some fungus spore plugs, it could grow in my region without being a dangerously invasive alien species.  Despite how cool it would sound to have a dangerously invasive glowing alien species.

This, and species like it, inspired the term “Foxfire” – a delightfully evocative name which is bar far nicer to roll off the tongue than Panellus Stipticus.  They say in some forests, when it gets truly dark at night, you look down at the forest floor and it seems as if you are strolling amongst galaxies of stars, such is the magic of these pinpricks, groupings and clusters of glowing fruiting bodies.

They say that Mr Benjamin Franklin recommended its use as lighting in the Turtle submarine – and as an alternative to oxygen-ravenous flames and fires, I can see his point.  Something strikes me as very calming, spooky, and eldritch about descending into the depths of the sea in a hand-cranked wooden submarine, illuminated only by glowing fungus and what faint light strains through the kelp forests and murky silt.