Mycena luxperpetua (perpetual light) -- after inspiring Latin lyrics in Mozart's famous requiem.
"We have to describe all our species in Latin, so I understand Latin. And I'm reading along and singing along [with the requiem] in Latin -- and halfway through you run into 'perpetual light of God' and 'eternal light' ... and I thought these are great names for mushrooms!" he says.
While Desjardin is probably the first mycologist you've seen quoted, yes, he assures us, 200-plus species is a lot for someone in his field to discover. The secret of his success is simple: First, be super-knowledgeable about mushrooms. Then, go to places no other mycologist has ever been.
"I have current projects in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Micronesia, Hawaii, Brazil, and Sao Tome and Principe, an island country off the west of Africa," he says. In one month, he and his colleagues found 225 new species there.
Desjardin has a pair of theories as to why his glowing mushrooms light up the night. Hypothesis A is that nocturnal insects are drawn to the light, and then carry off the mushroom's spores.
Hypothesis B is sexier, but less based in solid evidence. With many luminous mushrooms, the only part that glows is the mycelium. Mushrooms, after all, are just the sexual organs of the mycelium -- "so when you're picking a mushroom, think of Lorena Bobbit," says the professor. The networks of mycelium can stretch for hundreds and even thousands of square acres -- and no one knows how long they can live (ages of 5,000 to 7,000 years or more have been extrapolated). These massive, subterranean fungi have been genetically tested -- and qualify as one, single genetic individual.
In any event, mycelium don't emit spores, so the prior hypothesis doesn't work. But Desjardin thinks the glowing fungi may attract insects that devour bugs that prey on the mushrooms -- "they attract the enemy of their enemy."
Speaking of enemies, Desjardin was last in the news in June when he named a mushroom after a friend, Robert Drewes of the California Academy of Sciences. Desjardin discovered a mushroom on Sao Tome and Principe of the genus "Phallus" -- so "you can imagine what they look like." This, however, was the tiniest phallus ever seen at barely two inches long.
Naturally, Desjardin thought of his buddy, Drewes. Now a mushroom that "looks like a tiny, circumcised penis" has been immortalized as Phallus Drewesii.
What a pal!