A glowing mulch tale   Greentr-@aol.com
  Dec 19, 2003 16:07 PST 
One day in late fall (I think it was a Wednesday) a man rushed into my office
at the University of Guelph clutching a large cardboard box and clearly in a
state of high excitement. This was his story:
He was up at the cottage for the weekend. His cottage lot had a large, old,
rotting, deciduous stump that was in an inconvenient spot. It interfered with
general activities, parking, fun and games, and was an obstacle to general
mayhem and in particular caused serious risk to those wondering around the lot
in the dark (or light for that matter) in various states of inebriation.
So, he determined to rid himself, once and for all, of this objectionable
hazard. He armed himself with a variety of tools but found a large wood-chopping
axe was the weapon of choice. Using this axe, he attacked the stump with
vim, vigour, general gusto, and great enthusiasm just after lunch on Saturday.    
Unfortunately, it was a much bigger job than he anticipated and he was slow
to make an impression on this large, hardwood stump.   Many hours passed, wood
chips were flying in all directions with the vigour of his assault.    And he
was measurably running out of both enthusiasm and energy.    But he was a
stubborn man, of stout heart and perseverance (probably from Scotland), and at
last he completed the job.   By that time, however, it was almost dark and he
was thoroughly exhausted. The wood chips by then were scattered widely over the
yard and it was pretty messy, but 'tomorrow is another day' and he could
clean up then.
At any rate, he dragged his weary body into the cottage, too exhausted even
to eat supper, and fell onto his bunk in a deep slumber.    When he awoke it
was late into the night but he saw a light coming from the yard.   He we went
to the cottage window and lo and behold the yard was completely lit up by an
intense green glow from the hundreds of wood chips scattered around the lot.   
He was amazed, awed and almost overwhelmed by this miraculous occurrence.
The next morning (Sunday), he got a large cardboard box,   filled it with the
wood chips, put it in the trunk of his car, and drove all the way home.
Unfortunately, he was a bit busy and couldn’t get to our University right away.   
In fact, as I mentioned earlier, it was a Wednesday by the time he came to my
office.   And it was pretty hot weather at the time.   So, his box of wood
chips had been in the trunk of his car for several hot days. 'Ah! There's the
We took the box into the photographic darkroom, put out the lights and opened
up the box. Now, I would like to say that the whole darkroom was lit up by a
green spiritual glow. Sadly, not so! Absolutely NOTHING! Not even the
faintest glimmer.
Of course this was not unexpected. Three days (more or less) in the trunk of
a hot car had effectively cooked the hyphae into premature demise.   
Luminescence is a vital phenomenon and the dead hyphae could no longer emit.   ‘C’est
la vie’ as the say in La Belle Provence. ‘That’s the way the cookie crumbles’
say our neighbours to the South. ‘There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the
lip’ as my old granny in Scotland used to remind me (too often as I recall).
The cottager was very disappointed that I couldn’t witness his personal
miracle. And suitably chagrined at his stupidity in not bringing the box in right
away on Monday morning. But I assured him that the long trip down Highways 11
and 400, from north of Huntsville with the hot sun trying to burn a hole in
his trunk, would probably be sufficient in itself to kill the fungus and it
wouldn’t have made much difference anyway.   
Note:   The facts in this story are essentially true but are slightly altered
(embellished?) for what is euphemistically called 'artistic license' or as
Emeril would say 'to kick it up a notch'!   The fungus responsible was
Armillaria mellea.