Ghost mushrooms under the Southern Cross

The Ghost mushroom (Omphalotus nidiformis)

In late Summer through to May, the fruiting bodies of the bioluminescent fungus (Omphalotus nidiformis) appear usably at ground level (or a short distance up) commonly around an intact stump of a large tree in the forests of southern Australia.

The fruiting bodies emerge from spore or mycelium in the soil and derive their nutrients from the decaying wood. There is speculation about the purpose of the glow but arguably it attracts insects that could aid in dispersion of the spore.

At night, to the naked eye, they glow white with perhaps a hint of lime green to the naked eye. On a moonless light they can appear surprisingly bright and no doubt caused some consternation to the First Australians. . Finding the fungi is actually the fun bit. Some target likely areas of forest during the day (particularly areas where they have been found in past years) but I have found hunting them at night with a friend driving along with lights on parkers is effective as you can see the glow through the dark undergrowth. Obviously don't do it on a busy road. However, where we go, the south coast of NSW there are numerous forestry trails with very little traffic for the spotting activity.

Taking images of the mushrooms is challenging, you will need a rug to lie on, and either something like a small blanket and a towel or tripod to prop your camera on. A shutter release cabler intervalometer is handy if you want to do exposures over 30 seconds. Finally, a torch to help you focus your camera on the fungus through live view is essential. Depending on the brightness of the glow, ISOs between 400 - 3200 have worked. I use long exposure noise reduction to remove noise and several images can be focus stacked to maximise the areas in focus. I also use a f stop of f5 to f5.6 to try and increase depth of field. Lens around 35 mm to 70 mm are good.

Just click away and enjoy the amazing experience. And don't forget to bring insect repellant and apply it liberally to your body before starting. Check for leeches and ticks carefully as these also inhabit the areas where the fungi grow.


Old Princes Highway, East Lynne