Life that lights at Denver Museum of Nature and Science
by Dr. Andrew Wilson
Bioluminescence as defined by Wikipedia is, “the production and emission of light by a living organism.” Going on now at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science is the exhibit “Creatures of Light”, which is displaying a variety of organisms that bioluminesce. Most important to the CMS are the glow-in-the-dark mushrooms. The mushrooms that are featured include the Jack-O-Lantern mushroom (Omphalotus olearius), and other ‘foxfire’ mushrooms Panellus stipticus and Armillaria mellea. These are presented in the form of plastic, illuminated models, but the display includes a giant and fantastic mushroom that resembles a species of Pleurotus (a non-glowing oyster mushroom). This alone earns them points for magnifying the mystical majesty of mushrooms.
However, they do display live, bioluminescent mycelium from P. stipticus and A. mellea. This part of the exhibit was done in collaboration with the Denver Botanic Gardens’ Andrew Wilson who’s been curating the cultures for them. If you go there, take your time to see these near the display cart after the faux wooden bridge. Their light is very dim so you will have to press your eye to the cannister and then wait a good 20-30 seconds for your eye can gather enough light to observe the eerie green glow from the mycelium.
In addition to bioluminescence, the exhibit is featuring fluorescent organisms. For this, the Denver Botanic Gardens has also loaned some specimens of rock lichens as well as a species of Cortinarius that will reflect greenish yellow when placed under a black light. But you should check out the fluorescent scorpions too. Really neat stuff for the nature geeks out there.
Beyond this, there are much more bioluminescent and fluorescent creatures to lay your eyes on. Again, this exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science is open until June 10th and is FREE TO THE PUBLIC, with your purchase to enter the museum. So, go and check it out while you can.
Check out the DBG Facebook Live interview with Brian Hostetler and Andrew Wilson on the Creatures of Light Exhibit:
Also of interest, Friday, October 5th we will have the pleasure of hosting renown mushroom photographer, Taylor Lockwood. His emphasis this year will be on the beautiful bioluminescent mushrooms of the world. One of which is featured on a recent US Postage stamp. Mark the date on your calendar!