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Posted by on Sep 14, 2015 in Tell Me Why |

What Is Fox Fire?

What Is Fox Fire?

If you took a nighttime walk in the woods, you might see a ghostly light known as fox fire, also sometimes called fairy fire. Fox fire is caused by a certain kind of mushroom that glows in the dark. It is produced when oxygen makes certain chemicals in the plant’s tissues light up.

Plants that can light up are described as being bioluminescent. “Bio” means living; “luminescent” means giving off light. Quite often one finds clumps of these innocent looking mushrooms growing on stumps of trees. But you would notice their “living light” only on very dark nights.

The bluish-green glow is attributed to luciferase, an oxidative enzyme, which emits light as it reacts with luciferin.

It is widely believed that the light attracts insects to spread spores, or acts as a warning to hungry animals, like the bright colors exhibited by some poisonous or unpalatable animal species. Although generally very dim, in some cases fox fire is bright enough to read by.

Content for this question contributed by Christina Gradnik, resident of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, USA