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The phosphorescent mushroom
Each mushroom, among the many species existing in nature, has some peculiar characteristic that allows it to be distinguished from the others. Omphalotus olearius is a curious mushroom, which is often confused with another species, Cantharellus cibarius, or chanterelle. In fact, these two mushrooms bear some resemblance only on superficial observation. However, we must pay close attention, because if the chanterelle is edible, this is not the case for the Omphalotus olearius, which can cause even serious poisoning. Its most unique feature is that in the dark it gives off a slight greenish luminescence. This characteristic in Anglo-Saxon countries has earned him the name of Jack O'Lantern mushrooom, from the name that has the typical carved Halloween pumpkin. The botanical name, olearius, in a more prosaic way, alludes only to the fact that it frequently grows at the foot of olive trees.
The characteristics of the Omphalotus olearius
Except for the quality described above, that is the luminescence that the Omphalotus olearius gives off in the dark, there are many other characteristics that make it recognizable, and that allow to distinguish it from the chanterelle. The Omphalotus olearius belongs to the Omphalotaceae family; it has a vivid yellow-orange color, and its resemblance to chanterelle ends there. His hat has a funnel-shaped appearance, with a kind of concavity in the center. Hence the genus takes the name Omphalotus, because in ancient Greek the term omphalos meant navel. The hat can measure up to 12 centimeters, its flesh is not very consistent and very elastic. The hat is almost one with the stem, which is cylindrical in shape and of a color that can oscillate between yellow, brown and reddish.
How to recognize the Omphalotus olearius
Omphalotus olearius is distinguished from Cantherellus cibarius mainly due to the gills that are located under the stem. The gills are very evident in the Omphalotus, very dense, and run up to a certain point of the stem. They generally have a very bright orange color, and it is they that cause the typical glow of the fungus. Those of Cantharellus, on the other hand, are only pseudo lamellae, much less highlighted. Omphalotus olearius also grows in very different habitats. It is a fungus that loves warm climates, so it is found mainly in the Mediterranean areas. It grows between summer and autumn, often on dead or rotting trunks. Although it is called olearius, not only is the olive tree its favorite, it can also grow on oak or chestnut wood. It always grows from wood, never from the ground.
Omophalotus olearius: The toxicity of Omphalotus olearius
Omphalotus olearius can also be beautiful to look at, but it must be absolutely kept away from it as regards its edibility. It is in fact a toxic fungus, which causes severe vomiting attacks that occur no later than four hours after having ingested one of its specimens. The meat of the Omphalotus olearius has no smell or taste, it can only give a slightly sweet taste, if tasted. The toxin they contain causes a syndrome called gastrointestinal, as it acts on the intestinal flora, altering it. Generally, the most obvious symptom is vomiting, which disappears within 48 hours. Diarrhea and abdominal pain may also appear. The Omphalotus olearius is not only harmful to humans, but also to plants: in fact it determines the death of the olive tree on which it is born. However, it must be said that it always appears on plants that are already sick, and never on healthy ones.