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Luminescent wood in coal and ore mines – A historical review


Brandl, H (2011). Luminescent wood in coal and ore mines – A historical review. Fungi Magazine, 4(2):5-9.

Abstract

Light emission by fungi was already known in the ancient world. Although this phenomenon was mentioned only very briefly by Aristotle and Pliny the Elder, naturalists mostly neglected the subject until the early observations were confirmed in underground locations by miners in the 18th century. In 1796 the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt was one of the first to describe the luminescence of rhizomorphs (thick "root-like" mycelium strands) in the mines of Freiberg (Germany). A bright luminescence of wooden panels and beams in a coal mine was reported, so bright that pit lamps were not necessary. High levels of air humidity seemed an important requirement for light emission and increased temperatures stimulated luminescence as well. Light was emitted by the "plants" (termed Rhizomorpha subterranea, R. aïdela, R. stellata, R. noctiluca) mainly from the tips of the mycelium strands. Today, it is rather difficult to see this spectacle in nature, e.g. in forests, mainly because of increasing "light pollution" of the environment. This report records the perception of this phenomenon in mining locations and discusses the original (mostly German) literature of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Light emission by fungi was already known in the ancient world. Although this phenomenon was mentioned only very briefly by Aristotle and Pliny the Elder, naturalists mostly neglected the subject until the early observations were confirmed in underground locations by miners in the 18th century. In 1796 the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt was one of the first to describe the luminescence of rhizomorphs (thick "root-like" mycelium strands) in the mines of Freiberg (Germany). A bright luminescence of wooden panels and beams in a coal mine was reported, so bright that pit lamps were not necessary. High levels of air humidity seemed an important requirement for light emission and increased temperatures stimulated luminescence as well. Light was emitted by the "plants" (termed Rhizomorpha subterranea, R. aïdela, R. stellata, R. noctiluca) mainly from the tips of the mycelium strands. Today, it is rather difficult to see this spectacle in nature, e.g. in forests, mainly because of increasing "light pollution" of the environment. This report records the perception of this phenomenon in mining locations and discusses the original (mostly German) literature of the 18th and 19th centuries.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Armillaria, bioluminescence, glowing wood, light emission, lumincescent fungi, rhizomorphs
Language:German
Date:2011
Deposited On:19 Jan 2012 13:58
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:17
Publisher:UNSPECIFIED
Free access at:Official URL. An embargo period may apply.
Official URL:http://www.fungimag.com/spring-2011-articles/LuminescentWoodLR.pdf
Related URLs:http://www.fungimag.com/
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-53631

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