Where to see ghost mushrooms in South Australia

SA is home to hundreds of species of fungi, but did you know some of them glow in the dark? Here’s where to look.

Ghost mushrooms, or Omphalotus nidiformis, get their name because they have an eerie glow. The mushrooms’ cup-shaped fruiting bodies grow on pine stumps and other rotting wood, and can grow as big as 20 centimetres across.

In daylight, they’re a creamy white colour, sometimes with brown, black or purple shading, but at night they really come into their own, glowing green.

Ghost mushroom during daylight (image courtesy of David Catcheside)

Like glow worms, fire flies, and sea sparkle, ghost mushrooms produce light known as bioluminescence through an internal chemical reaction.

Where to find them

The best place to find ghost mushrooms in South Australia is in Glencoe Forest near Mount Gambier. Forestry SA opens Ghost Mushroom Lane to visitors during May and June every year, and you’ll need to purchase an access pass to visit.

After wet weather, you may be lucky enough to find these amazing fungi in other parts of SA as well, especially where there are pine trees.

They have been seen in the Adelaide Hills, especially in Para Wirra Conservation Park and Scott Creek Conservation Park, as well as Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island, Padthaway Conservation Park in the South East and even on Eyre Peninsula, so keep an eye out next time you’re on a walk.

Just remember, ghost mushrooms are for looking at, not eating. Like many wild fungi, they are poisonous, and while they aren’t likely to kill you, the effects include vomiting and stomach cramps and are deeply unpleasant.

Want to learn more about fungi? Try this post on five types you might see in the Adelaide Hills, and learn more about why it’s a good idea to get your mushrooms from the market instead of the field.

(Main image courtesy of Ockert le Roux)

This story was originally posted in May 2018.

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