Jack o’lantern | ©Jose Rodriguez (Cabra, Cordoba, Andalucia, Spain)
Omphalotus (Omphalotaceae) is a genus of fungi which produces clumps of mushrooms in damp, forested areas. Fruiting bodies are generally found at the base of trees in very large clusters.
O. olearius specifically is a mushroom reminiscent of a chanterelle mushroom. Its fruiting bodies have a characteristic bright orange color. Like the chanterelle, its fruiting bodies have an appealing taste and odor, leading many people to consume them. However, unlike the chanterelle, O. olearius contains toxic compounds which can cause severe stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.
In addition, it exhibits significant bioluminescence as well, which has resulted in it becoming known as the “Jack-o-lantern” mushroom.
One point of interest is that the toxic compounds produced by O. olearius have been shown to contain an anti-cancer chemical which can be refined into a drug known as irofulven. Currently, the mechanism of irofulven’s anti-cancer properties is not well-understood, but it appear to be unique from other anti-cancer agents.