Exploring Northeast Georgia
Foxfire – Glowing in the Dark
In our, modern, fast paced world, we don’t spend much time walking through the forests at night. Native Americans were probably familiar with the glowing lights on the forest floor during spring on a moonless night. Whether they knew the origin of these lights, almost certainly they sparked myths and legends of spirits wandering the forests at night.
Foxfire has nothing to do with foxes or fire and was sometimes referred to as “fairy fire”. Although no-one really knows for sure, the word “fox” may originate from an older version of the French word for false “faux”. False fire would have made a suitable name for a plant that glows like embers but is cold to the touch.
Today we know that Foxfire is a bioluminescent plant, or more simply put, fungi that live and are nourished by rotting wood. As the forest floor heats up during springtime, especially in moist oak woods, the fungi grow and emit their eerie lights.
So, why does Foxfire glow? Simply put bioluminescence is a chemical reaction that helps plants or insects (such as fireflies or glow worms) lure prey, attract mates or camouflage themselves. Foxfire might be any of several different types of fungi, but usually the honey mushroom.
So, now that your interest is captured and you want to adventure out one evening to see the glowing Foxfire, here is a safe way to hike in the forest at night without getting lost or stepping on snakes!
Anna Ruby Falls Park next to Unicoi State Park has a program in May and June at 8pm on Thursday evenings. You will need to call ahead in April to make a reservation for this one hour hike up to the beautiful falls to see the glowing Foxfire. Hikes last about an hour and cost $5.00. Group capacity is 40 to 50 hikers. Remember to bring comfortable walking shoes and your camera!