Jack-o-lantern mushrooms are famous wild-grown fungi due to their ability to glow at night. The mushrooms are commonly mistaken for the edible and highly prized chanterelle mushrooms. However, jack-o-lantern mushrooms can give the human body harmful effects, which is a good reason why anyone should avoid ingesting them.
Regardless of the mushrooms' toxicity, jack-o-lantern still has exciting characteristics that you might want to know. This article will guide you in learning more about the bioluminescent jack-o-lantern mushroom.
What are the unique features of jack-o-lantern mushrooms?
First, let us explore how the mushroom got its name. Two of the jack-o-lantern mushroom's distinctive traits are where it got its name.
The jack-o-lantern mushroom is, first of all, a dark yellow-orange tint. It resembles the hue of a Halloween pumpkin from which a jack-o-lantern would be carved.
Second, there is an exceptional characteristic of jack-o-lantern mushrooms, making it even more interesting. Bioluminescence is the ability of an organism to create and radiate light, which the mushroom is capable of. A jack-o-lantern mushroom can be seen glowing in the dark. This characteristic undoubtedly gives the jack-o-lantern mushroom a creepy, eerie feel at night.
Now that we know the origin of the mushroom's name, let us determine its other known characteristics.
The typical wild mushroom known as the "Jack-o-lantern mushroom" (Omphalotus olearius) can be identified by its funnel-shaped crown and vibrant yellow-to-orange hue. It typically grows on rotting stumps, hidden roots, or at the base of hardwood trees, especially oaks, in wooded areas of North America from July to November.
The mushrooms grow in clusters of varying sizes and have a pleasant, fruity fragrance that some find appealing, others repulsive.
The stalk of the fungi is firm, meaty, and dry, measuring 1 1/2 to 8 inches long by 3/8 to 1 1/2 inches thick. It could be centered or off-centered and possess a color paler than the crown but the same hue.
A jack-o-lantern mushroom may be wide for most of its length or taper to the base. The stems are joined when growing in groups. At the base of the stalk, there is no cup-like covering (volva), and the stalk bears no trace of a global veil.
The cap has a diameter of 1 1/2 to 6 1/4 inches and is dry, smooth, and non-slimy, or sticky to the touch. Initially broadly convex, it ages to become flat or depressed before taking on a funnel form. Bright yellowish-orange to orange describes it (pumpkin-colored).
Why do Jack-O-Lantern mushrooms glow?
Numerous people may find the thought of glowing mushrooms weird. Still, if you think about it, there are several species of glowing organisms in nature, including many deep-sea critters and fireflies. A luminescent enzyme called luciferase or luciferin is present in all of these, including jack-o-lanterns.
The light of Jack-o-Lantern mushrooms is connected to their development. The process of mushroom reproduction involves the release of spores, which travel on the wind and establish new mushroom colonies in various places.
However, mushrooms that develop from dead wood, like the jack-o-lantern, are frequently so close to the ground that the breeze might not even reach them.
The mushrooms light at night to draw insects, which serve as "pollinators" to distribute the mushroom spores. Foxfire is the name of this occurrence.
Sometimes the brightness from the jack-o-lantern is intense enough for people to see it, especially at night. The glow is the most noticeable when the mushrooms are young and fresh. As the mushrooms get older and stop releasing spores, the illumination dims.
What mushroom is Jack-O-Lantern Confused with?
Jack-o-lantern has striking similarities and is frequently confused with the delectable and highly sought-after chanterelle mushroom; specifically, Cantharellus cibarius and Cantharellus lateritius (smooth chanterelles) (golden chanterelle).
When selecting chanterelles for eating in the wild, you should compare them to jack-o-lantern mushrooms. Similarly shaped and colored to jack-o-lanterns are chanterelle mushrooms. But typically, they are more yellow than orange.
According to the chanterelle, these broad ridges, sometimes called "false gills" can have a variety of appearances. However, they are rarely clearly defined and are typically difficult to distinguish from mushroom caps. Because they seldom ever resemble the typical mushroom gill look, they are known as fake gills.
On the other hand, the gills of jack o'lanterns are typically firmer, more distinct, and more closely linked to the cap. They always have the traditional mushroom gill appearance and are well-structured, smooth, and smooth.
Chanterelles typically have a pale inside and a cheese-like look when cut open. Jack o'lanterns have a woodier-looking exterior and a pale yellow inside.
The sulfur mushroom (Laetiporus sulphureus), which grows on trees and is edible in its early growth stages for specific individuals, may be confused with the Jack-o-lantern mushroom. The sulfur mushroom has a smooth surface covered in tiny pores, in contrast to the Jack-o-lantern mushroom's long, thin gills that extend to the stalk. By examining the underside of the caps, one may distinguish between the two species.
Another thing that resembles a jack-o-lantern is a honey fungus (Armillaria mellea). In Europe, honey mushrooms are a prevalent type of wild mushroom, particularly in Germany, Poland, Ukraine, and Russia.
Where are Jack-O-Lantern mushrooms found?
On decaying timber, dead trees, and stumps, jack-o-lantern mushrooms can be seen growing in dense clusters. They are meaty, vivid orange mushrooms. To give the appearance that it is emerging from the ground like its edible resemblance, the chanterelle, the substrate, can occasionally be hidden behind the leaf litter.
Large clusters of these mushrooms are known to flourish on hardwood trees' stumps or buried roots, particularly oaks, in the late summer and early fall. In contrast to their widespread distribution east of the Rocky Mountains, jack-o-lanterns are uncommon in western North America. The mushrooms can occasionally be found in northern and central Europe.
Are Jack-O-Lantern mushrooms edible?
Due to its alluring appearance, the jack-o-lantern is tempting to be eaten by any mushroom forager. The jack-o-lanterns' brilliant yellow tops initially seem relatively innocent. Many people believe they are edible because of this; however, they are not.
Unlike certain mushrooms, Jack-o-lanterns cannot kill you, but they will make you quite ill due to certain chemicals they contain. For this very reason, I do not recommend consuming Jack-o-lantern mushrooms.
Muscarine and illudin are two of the poisons found in jack o'lanterns. These poisons can cause unpleasant stomach symptoms, even though neither is fatal.
As mentioned above, jack-o-lanterns are sometimes confused with chanterelles and wild yellow oysters, two edible fungus types. If you're going mushroom hunting on your own, it's crucial to understand how these mushrooms differ from one another.
What will happen if you accidentally eat Jack-O-Lantern mushrooms?
Jack-o-lantern's poisonous substances can bring significant discomfort if a person ingests it unintentionally. According to a biomedical article about people ingesting jack-o-lanterns and its effects on their bodies.
According to the report, seven adults consumed jack-o-lantern mushrooms, and all began feeling sick and vomiting. Of the seven, four reported feeling faint and lightheaded. Upon physical examination, two were diaphoretic.
Upon being admitted to a hospital for proper medical attention, all adults were discharged the following day with normal follow-up examinations and laboratory results.
Although they can be deadly, healthy adults very seldom, if ever, die from Jack o'lantern poisoning. If a substantial amount is taken, they may be fatal to young children or the very elderly; however, this is typically brought on by dehydration in addition to the actual effects of the mushroom poisons.
If you consume a jack-o-lantern by mistake, you could start feeling sick in just a few minutes, and the symptoms could persist for several days. Your chance of being dehydrated increases with the length of time that you have vomiting and diarrhea.
It's important to note that jack-o-lantern poisoning can affect animals and people. These mushrooms can also make pets throw up and have diarrhea, but these symptoms are often relatively minor and might not be immediately apparent as being caused by mushrooms. Nevertheless, do not allow your beloved fur friends to get near jack-o-lanterns mushrooms.
How to treat jack-o-lantern mushroom poisoning?
Jack-o-lantern poisoning is typically treatable at home because it rarely leads to death. This is especially true if the symptoms are minor and have no negative consequences.
Activated charcoal may absorb some toxins and decrease the symptoms you might encounter if you realize you've eaten jack-o-lanterns before you start to feel sick. The best thing you can do at that moment is to try to alleviate the symptoms because, in most situations, you will not notice you have eaten deadly mushrooms until the symptoms surface.
Allow me to give you some practical steps to take in dealing with jack-o-lantern mushroom poisoning:
Allow your body to rest.
Even if your symptoms are modest, jack o'lantern poisoning is still likely to make you feel reasonably uncomfortable. Get as much sleep as possible because it will help your body deal with the stress of the symptoms and could speed up the detoxification process.
Due to your vomiting and diarrhea, you will be losing a significant amount of fluids. To avoid dehydration and to enable the removal of toxins from your body, it is crucial to replace the lost fluids immediately. By drinking water or ginger tea, eating some ice chips, and avoiding carbonated and caffeinated drinks, you are mitigating dehydration.
Deal with cramps using a heating pad or hot bottle.
Stomach cramps can be significantly relieved by heat. A heating pad, a hot water bottle, or other practical and secure heat sources may help relieve crippling abdominal discomfort.
Now, after performing the suggested procedure above and the situation does not improve or even worsen, it's time to seek medical care. Medical measures could include giving you intravenous fluids and potassium supplements and keeping an eye on you to ensure no organs are damaged.
Is it safe to touch Jack-O-Lantern mushrooms?
Touching the mushrooms might not cause harm to the person since we have not received any report of such an incident. It could be improbable that the toxins might get through the human skin.
But this is a chance one should not take, though. There is always a possibility that you will touch your mouth unintentionally while having poisons on your hands.
Can you grow Jack-O-Lantern mushrooms?
Growing jack-o-lantern mushrooms is probable, and one can buy some sawdust spawn strains for home cultivation purposes. The mushrooms are helpful as an ornamental addition to someone's garden.
The buyer receives ready-colonized mushroom spawn for inoculating wood logs after purchasing jack-o-lantern substrate from organic raw materials (wood, rye bran from organic farming). These jack-o-lantern mushrooms grow well in various kinds of wood, including olive, oak, chestnut, and beech. This variety bears fruit from the summer through the fall.
But remember to practice extra caution in growing the jack-o-lantern mushroom because of their harmful effects on the human body and our pets as well.
Is there research done on Jack-O-Lantern mushrooms?
Even though jack-o-lantern mushrooms can harm humans and animals, they have been the subject of research, especially concerning a cure for cancer.
In the 1960s, Trevor McMorris, a chemist at the University of California at San Diego who had previously studied the chemical components of mushrooms while working as a researcher at the New York Botanical Garden, rediscovered the research on the iludins, the toxins found in jack-o-mushrooms.
The National Cancer Institute received the substances that McMorris had submitted for evaluation. In that investigation, illudins were discovered to be potent anti-tumor agents.
After figuring out the chemical makeup of illudins, McMorris had to find a way to alter the compound's structure such that it still killed tumor cells but wasn't toxic. "Reduce the toxicity but keep the anti-cancer activity" was his stated goal.
The research took a while; it wasn't until the late 1980s that his group developed the useful chemical irofulven. Irofulven has shown potential in treating a number of difficult-to-treat malignancies. Ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate cancers are among these illnesses.
The jack-o-lantern mushroom also contains substances that may one day be used as antibiotics. This fact is not too surprising. Like penicillin, several additional antibiotics are produced by fungi.