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Rainbow Mushroom

Quynh Nguyen

Rainbow mushroom, also known as “glass parasol”, is one of the most beautiful and rarest mushroom species in the world. It is a species of fungus that has been found in 2014 by a Japanese scientist, Satoko Yamato. The fungus is only found deep in the Amazon rainforest, where it grows on woody debris such as branches and barks. Rainbow mushroom is characterized by a fruit body that expands into a small, white stem (approximately three inches) with brilliant multicolor cap that resembles the color of rainbow.

The fungus requires a proper range of humidity to form mushrooms. The researchers only found this species during the rainy season in November, December and January when the humidity is around 77%. Unlike many species of mushrooms that appear overnight, growing or expanding rapidly, the fungus only appears after heavy rainfall; it grows very slowly as a single individual and disappears quickly after few hours. With a weirdest appearance, surely the scientists want to investigate and take it back to the lab. Unfortunately, the fungus will most likely disintegrate after being picked and its fruit body (cap) will turn white and translucent like glass. It is very rare to see an “original” rainbow mushroom after picking.

 Rainbow mushroom was found to be non- poisonous and can be eaten. The mushroom and its extract are studied as possible treatments for diseases like cancer or stroke. Chinese traditional medicines consider rainbow mushroom as a key to achieve a healthy life. This species of fungus is regarded as magic due to its strange fruit body colors and its healing power. Researchers have a hard time growing these mushrooms in laboratory conditions, which contributes to their high demand (and price) in many parts of the world. A rainbow mushroom that still remains its colors after picking can cost $1,000. Some believed that only people with pure hearts can pick the mushroom without changing its colors.

Rainbow mushroom is also use in cooking. It has strong, unique and earthy taste. Because rainbow mushroom is rare, most restaurants would shave it carefully to make the most of this valuable ingredient. They often use the mushroom to make cheese or insert into meat to enhance the flavor.

What makes this fungus so rare is because it only grows a few months every season. Not only that, maneuvering way around the rainforest and finding this piece of fungus is also a rare factor. Besides, it takes several days to form the fruit body after heavy rainfall but disappeared very quickly after that. Since the mushroom is small, and fruits in only a limited season in a small area, scientists have investigated the conditions needed to artificially cultivate the species in laboratory conditions, in order to help preserve the species.

Scientist today is still investigating how this specie of fungus has this special feature. The color of the mushroom may depend on soil pH and the ideal humid weather. In January 2016, the scientists have reported that the fungus is becoming more scarce as its natural habits are decreasing.