India is home to a highly popular tourist destination boasting one of the world’s rarest natural phenomena: glowing rainforests. In the dark, the plush rainforest comes to life with fields of glowing green flora.
When the sun sets, deep in the forests of the Western Ghats, the trees and the ground emit a rare green glow that leaves tourists spellbound. The conspicuous green glowing trees and ground have been photographed by numerous tourists, wondering how the rare phenomenon occurs.
Scientists have attributed the fascinating spectacle to the forest’s growing bioluminescent fungus. During the monsoon season, which lasts from June through October, rainfall soaks the bioluminescent fungus growing on rotting stems, bark and twigs on the forest floor. This offers the fungus the right mix of humidity and moisture to thrive, resulting in the fields of glowing green.
Other parts of the world have been found to host handfuls of the bioluminescent fungus, though not widespread, making the phenomenon very tough to spot and the forests of Western Ghats truly unique.
While glowing marine organisms and bioluminescent waters are common, terrestrial bioluminescence is a far less reported phenomenon. There are only 70 known species of bioluminescent fungi, out of nearly 100,000 species of the fungus.
The glowing fungus in the Western Ghats belong to the Mycena genus, tiny mushrooms existing in groups that look like moss.
The earliest known report on bioluminescence was made by Pliny the Elder, a known Roman naturalist, early in the 1st century. Some Scandinavian tribes were reported to having used the fluorescent fungus to mark their routes and paths during long distance travel.
The Western Ghats has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site and also one of only eight World biodiversity hotspots. Stretching close to 995 miles across India’s west coast, the Ghats, as they are popularly known, are home to the largest recorded population of Asian elephants, the rare black panther, tigers and leopards alike.