HomeOutdoorsViralGlowing Fungus Creates Alien-Like Scene Along Washington Beaches

Glowing Fungus Creates Alien-Like Scene Along Washington Beaches

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Sean Povone/Getty Images)

A photographer taking photos around a Forks, Washington beach found a strange fungus on some dead branches that made the wood glow neon green. Mathew Nichols was exploring the shore when he discovered the branches. It definitely looks like something radioactive, but it’s really just a particular fungus that sheds light while it consumes wet, dead wood.

“I have been searching for the glowing logs for a few weeks with no luck,” Nichols told FOX Weather. Finally, though, he found them. “I stepped onto the beach, and I could see a couple areas that were glowing,” he said. “Excited, I ran closer where I came upon two different logs that were glowing.”

This is a process known as “foxfire.” The fungus gives off light through bioluminescence as it eats the dead wood. “Experiencing these logs glow in the dark naturally… feels like a true form of magic,” said Nichols. It looks like true magic, as well. Don’t believe us? Take a look at the photos.

Nichols explained that though he took the photos with extended exposure, he didn’t enhance the color at all. That’s all-natural fungus. Nichols has actually found these glowing logs on the beach before. Nearly a year ago, around the same time, he found another log that was glowing bright green. Then, he went out to photograph the lunar eclipse and found the fungus as well.

“At first, I thought someone left lanterns,” Nichols told FOX Weather at the time. “Then upon further investigation, I found it was a bioluminescent fungus growing all over some of the driftwood that had washed up from the storm!”

What is Foxfire and Why Does it Glow?

Foxfire is sometimes called fairy fire, and it stumped a lot of people for a long time. It was described thousands of years ago by Aristotle, who wrote that a “cold fire” emanated from the woods. In the 1500s, people in Scandanavia used the fungi phenomenon to illuminate their homes at night. Additionally, Micronesian cultures used the glowing mushrooms for rituals in the 20th century.

Over 71 fungus species use bioluminescence to create the eerie glow that we see, according to a report by the University of Chicago. Still, scientists and mycologists are still unsure how bioluminescence completely works. At least, they’re stumped on the exact chemical process. But, according to a joint US-Brazilian study published in 2015, it’s possible that fungi emit light to attract beetles and insects to spread spores.

Researchers studied the Brazilian species flor de coco and discovered that its bioluminescence actually has a circadian rhythm. The enzymes and chemicals peaked at night in order to attract the insects that wouldn’t be able to find the mushrooms otherwise. It’s definitely a neat trick, and it looks beautiful as well.