June 24, 2009

Glow fungi kits enable cultivation of natural bioluminescent fungi at home or in the garden. The website will provide an opportunity for people to participate in scientific research by posting photographs and results from their experiments. Glow fungi are saprotrophs, that is, they only grow on dead organic matter and therefore should live in harmony with plants and trees.

What are fungi?

Fungi are a unique kingdom of organisms, distantly related to animals, that have a very different lifestyle. Unlike plants, fungi do not use chlorophyll to harness energy from the sun. The vegetative form of a fungus is called the mycelium. As it grows, the mycelium secretes digestive enzymes and absorbs nutrients from its surroundings. Mushrooms and toadstools are the reproductive structures that disperse spores. A single mushroom can release millions of spores in one day. When the spores land in suitable habitat they germinate and form a new colony.

The importance of fungi
Fungi are natural recyclers of organic materials and will grow on a variety of waste materials e.g. cardboard. Many fungi are mycorrhizal; that is, they have intimate associations with plants by forming networks with root systems, allowing sharing of nutrients and water. Without fungi we would not exist!

What is bioluminescence?
Bioluminescence is the phenomenon where light is produced by a living organism e.g. bacteria, jellyfish and fireflies. Bioluminescence is a chemical reaction where an enzyme, “luciferase” oxidises a substrate “luciferin” and results in the production of light. Fungi have their own unique bioluminescence mechanism, however the chemistry and why they use bioluminesence remains a mystery.