First spied in 1840 by English botanist George Gardner, this species of bioluminescent mushroom, Neonothopanus gardneri, went missing until just last year - an absence of over 170 years! A pair of primatologists studying a band of monkeys stumbled across the mushrooms a few years ago, which were later confirmed and led to last year’s paper.
Although they escaped the hands of scientists for nearly 200 years, these mushrooms are quite familiar to the locals. The Brazilian people call it the flor-de-coco, or flower of the coconut, since it is usually found on dwarf palm trees remnants.
Although glowing fungi are nothing new to science — there are 71 identified species — this particular species (named Neonothopanus gardneri, after the initial discoverer) is notable for its size and the extraordinary strength of its light.
“It glows more brightly than almost all other luminescent mushrooms,” said Dennis Desjardin, a fungi expert at San Francisco State University. “If you were in a dark room and you put one on a newspaper, you’d be able to read the words.”
Desjardin also noted that these mushrooms can grow up to three inches in diameter, which is giant compared to most bioluminescent fungi. The mushrooms are highly poisonous, and scientists are currently trying to figure out the purpose of the glow.