Taking Inventory: Glow Lichen

We lichen it!

Below the surface, it’s dark. Darker still if you forget to bring your torches. But sometimes you’ll see a little softening in that darkness – just enough to allow you to identify which monstrosity is slowly shambling your way. Where does this dim light come from? It comes from glow lichen, which is our item of the week!

Glow lichen is a relatively new addition to Minecraft’s floral cornucopia. It was added in the first part of the Caves & Cliffs Update, which was released in June 2021, as part of a broader reworking of the game’s cave systems.

You’ll find glow lichen generating naturally inside caves, on stone, andesite, diorite, granite, calcite, tuff, deepslate, and dripstone blocks that are exposed to air or water. It’s easy to break, but if you want to collect some then you’ll need a pair of shears to gently scissor it off the wall.

If you want to farm the stuff, then you’ll need some bonemeal – when you use the bonemeal on the lichen, it’ll spread to one random adjacent block. The bonemeal dramatically accelerates the plant’s growth – under normal conditions, you won’t ever see bonemeal grow.

What can you do with it? Well, it gives off light – about the same amount as a redstone torch, an enchanting table, or a couple of candles. Use it to give a subtle underlighting to a modernist house design, or as a nightlight for when you need to grab a midnight snack. You can also compost it.

In the real world, a few types of insects and fungi can give off light – a phenomenon known as “bioluminescence”. Scientists have identified several reasons why this behavior might have evolved – from attraction and defense to communication and mimicry. In the case of fungi, it might be to attract insects which then spread spores.

Glowy objects is also the theme of the latest seasonal adventure in Minecraft Dungeons – Luminous Night! In it, players explore the Tower at night, which is now covered with mysterious murals with glowing signs on them. Whether or not these signs are bioluminescent, we don’t know, but if you’re ever given the chance to inspect them yourself, do let us know!

While there are plenty of bioluminescent insects and fungi, there are no known real-world bioluminescent lichens, making Minecraft’s example rather special. Best grab your shears, head down to your nearest cave, and gather as much as you can carry. Good luck!

Duncan Geere
Written By
Duncan Geere