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Real-life glowing fungus?


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#1 berelinde

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 09:52 AM

Last night, on my way home from work, I saw the weirdest thing I have ever seen: phosphorescent lichen. It was late, long after dark, it was in a remote stretch of road with no street lights (or even house lights) for miles, and it was very, very foggy. The road is winding, hilly and very narrow, barely wide enough for two full-sized pick-up trucks to pass, but both trucks have to pull in their mirrors to do it. I was intent on my driving, but I kept getting distracted by what looked like splashes of glowing blue-white paint on the boulders and trees on the edge of the road. It was reflecting the light from my headlights as if it was that special reflective tape they use for the graphics on emergency vehicles. Seriously, it was so bright, it almost hurt. If it weren't for the fact that it was on just about every big rock or tree and it went on for miles, I would have thought some kids found a bucket of road paint and decided to decorate the neighborhood. This morning, on my way back to work, I pulled over to look at one of the rocks that was glowing the night before. It wasn't paint. It was lichen or algae of some kind, very fine-grained, flush with the surface of the rock, and a pale greenish grey, almost the same color as the rock itself.

Does anyone know anything about this?

I have driven this stretch of road twice a day for the last two years under a variety of weather and lighting conditions and I have never noticed it before. As bright as it was, I don't see how I could have missed it. As I said, it was very, very foggy, so it is possible that whatever it was that was glowing needs a certain level of ambient moisture. If it helps, it was cool but not cold, maybe 4-5 degrees Celcius. The soil in the area is mostly red clay. Native rock is shale, but that part of New Jersey has a lot of granite boulders left by retreating glaciers. The glowing lichen was present on the granite boulders and on the trees, but not on the softer shale outcroppings.

I'll start bringing a camera in the car with me. Maybe I'll see it again and be able to photograph it.
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#2 Tempest

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 09:54 AM

Yep, I've heard of it before, albeit mainly in caves. Shame wikipedia's down.

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#3 berelinde

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 09:59 AM

Yeah, checked there first. Also googled it, but the varieties pictured were all more of a bluish-white powdery dusting on fallen logs and field mushrooms and they were in Alberta, Canada, not New Jersey. That said, that part of NJ is cooler and wetter than other parts of the state, so the flora may be a little different than it is elsewhere.
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#4 -JR-

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 09:01 AM

Whoah, that's great. Picture if you're able?
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#5 berelinde

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 09:34 AM

No luck so far, but I'll keep trying. Temperatures have dropped below freezing again and the relative humidity has plummeted. I've got a feeling that the phenomenon I witnessed may be a rare occurrence, something brought about by extremely high ambient moisture levels and mild temperatures. This has probably been the mildest January in New Jersey history. I'll continue to bring the camera along and hope that as spring approaches, the conditions may be right for another light show.
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#6 Miloch

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 08:52 PM

Interestin'. Goblin's gold maybe? Probably covered with snow now though, eh?
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#7 berelinde

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 02:02 AM

Probably! :D That road will probably be closed until the snow melts, too, which will lengthen my commute by a good 20 minutes.

The stuff looked more like the blue-white stuff stuck to the rock on the left side of the glowing green stuff, actually, but it did have the appearance of reflected light more than bioluminescence. Maybe, like the goblin's gold, it possesses some kind of spherical structure that captures existing light and throws it back at the viewer. The "Essence of Hopewell Valley's Sourlands" picture on this page is a good representation of what the local geology looks like. The rectangular patch of pale-grey lichen on the bottom right corner of the rock would have been the part that was glowing.
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