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"F O X F I R E"     

Abstract art using bioluminescent chips of wood colonized by Armillaria mellea

Photo: Lex Kreffer Leiden University

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Comments from Photographer

I took the pictures with an Olympus OM1-n, macro lens 3.5/50 mm at f5.6, 25
minutes, on Fujichrome Previa 400.

All pieces of wood were collected in Clingendael Park, The Hague, late October 2002 at rather low temperatures (about 8 deg C) after heavy rainfall. They were put in a big plastic box (with airholes) with some moist soil from the site. I put the box away at home in a rather warm cupboard close to the fire in the living room, at about 24 deg C. Within a few hours I noticed
that the initially rather faint glow had turned quite bright, and I took the rest of the night to take some pictures.

Lex Kreffer's Story

"Four years ago I came across a youth-ravaged tree (Sorbus aucuparia) in a park in The Hague, while walking my dog late at night. You could see the wood glowing in a fantastic soft green glow from about 10 metres away.   I was very excited, because I had read about it, but had never seen it "live".    The next night it was still glowing, so I took several slides of it with my old Mamiya 645, and later on with my Olympus Om-1n with macro lens.   The best exposure time was about 20 minutes with f 4.5 at 400 ASA.   It was late October 1999, very cold and rainy.   Fifteen days later the first Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria mellea) appeared on the remains of the tree.Ever since, I have seen bioluminescent wood in that same park, in five different places, varying in occurrence from early November with night temperatures about 8C (a whole glowing rotten Beech log) till, most recently, an old oak root, two weeks ago, at night temperatures of about 22C. This root had been gnawed at by dogs or foxes and the places where the bark was torn are glowing faintly (So! Real "foxfire"...).    Last year, in October at still another site in that park, I found many small pieces of wood (Populus sp.?), glowing brightly.   The ones that were glowing faintly I took home, put them in a plastic box with some soil, moistened it with rain water and put it in a cupboard close to my oven. While these pieces where faintly glowing in the outside temperature of 10 deg. C, in the cupboard they were glowing very bright at a "room temperature" of 24 deg C. Sometimes I noticed a kind of "wave" running through the glow, but that might as well have been a reaction of my eyes, looking at that wood for a very long time while taking pictures of it in a darkroom. I 'm not sure. When I lowered the temperature, the glow also diminished.