Block of the Week: Shroomlight

Why do ghasts have such big eyes? We’ll never know for sure, but I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that it’s because the Nether is so dark. Bigger eyes mean more light can be captured, allowing ghasts to spot a player from a greater distance. Especially if that player is sneaking along a one-block-wide bridge high over a lava sea to reach some out-of-the-way glowstone, which – let’s be honest – is a situation we’ve all been in.

In the Nether update, however, things changed a bit. The Nether isn’t so dark anymore – huge fungi started sprouting in crimson forest and warped forest biomes, and that brightened things up. Why? Well, because huge fungi have a weird fruiting body that glows in the dark – our block of the week, the shroomlight.

Shroomlights can be found in the upper branches of huge fungi growing in crimson and warped forests in the Nether. Regardless of which biome you’re in, the shroomlights themselves are identical, which is a weird evolutionary quirk. They’ll be found in both naturally-generated fungi and those grown with bonemeal.

Want one? Hit it until it drops. Want one VERY FAST? Then I hope you brought a hoe, because they’re the most effective way of detaching the shroomlight from its stem. Happily, the shroomlight will continue glowing even once removed, so you’ll be able to bring it home and still make the most of its light-shining abilities in your mushroom-themed builds.

Or you could just compost it. Shroomlights have a 65% chance of raising the level of your composter by one. All that glowiness must be good for plant growth?

In the real world, there are plenty of fungi that glow in the dark – more than 75 known species, at last count. Plants and animals which glow are called “bioluminescent” and the phenomenon is thought to have many functions – from attraction and defense to communication and mimicry. In the case of fungi, it might be to attract insects which then spread spores. Then again it might not. Fungi scientists aren’t really sure.

The species in the picture above is the “bitter oyster” mushroom, better known as Panellus stipticus – which grows in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America on the logs, stumps and trunks of deciduous trees. Interestingly, only the strains that grow in Eastern North America are bioluminescent – those on the Pacific coast and other continents are not.

Bitter oyster mushrooms have another superpower - which is that they can break down some dangerous industrial wastes into safer chemicals, making them useful on highly contaminated ground. We don’t recommend wandering through industrial wasteland at night, but if you do and you see a patch of glowing mushrooms, it might be a good idea to turn around...

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