Omphalotus illudens

Omphalotus illudens
Image Courtesy of Dan Guravich
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Group of Fungi: Agarics

Family: Marasmiaceae

Latin Name: Omphalotus illudens (Schwein.) Bresinsky & Besl

Common Name: Jack O'Lantern Mushroom

Description: Total height 2–8 in (5–20 cm); cap 2–6 in (5–15 cm) wide, convex at first but becoming flat in age, often with a small central raised area, bright orange to yellow-orange but becoming brownish orange in age, upper surface smooth; gills closely spaced, color same as cap, descending down the top of the stalk; stalk 1 5/8–7 1/2 in (4–19 cm) long, 3/8–5/8 in (1–1.5 cm) in diameter, narrowed at the base, color same as cap or paler; spores white to pale yellow.

Biological Role: Decomposer of wood.

Habitat: On decaying wood of broadleaf trees, often found at the base of stumps and standing dead or dying trees; occurring in dense clusters.

Geographical Distribution: Widely distributed throughout eastern North America.

Comments: The single most important distinguishing feature of Omphalotus illudens is something that can be seen only in the dark! When taken into a completely darkened room or encountered in nature at night, the gills of fresh specimens of this fungus actually give off a green glow. This phenomenon, referred to as bioluminescence, is very rare in fungi. Some people have confused Omphlotus illudens, which is poisonous, with the completely edible chanterelles. However, chanterelles are found on the ground, lack true gills and never occur in dense clusters.

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