We’ve had plenty of heat and high humidity here and then last weekend we had a few passing thundershowers that absolutely poured rain. When these three weather events happen together it often means mushrooms and other interesting things will be appearing in the woods. Everything shown in this post was found in an area of less than a quarter square mile in a damp, acidic and quite shady white pine forest. What I think is a yellow spindle coral mushroom (Clavulinopsis fusiformis) was absolutely glowing in the forest litter at the edge of a path near a pond. It was very small-the maple leaf and pine needles surrounding it give a good idea of its size. This could also be a club mushroom called yellow or orange club (Clavulinopsis laeticolor.) The tightness of the cluster is part of the identification process and the differences are very subtle between the two species.Another broken coral or club fungus was growing near the previous example. I wanted to show this picture because it shows that these “clubs” are hollow like a straw. No, this is not a jellybean, but it sure did look like one in the woods because it was just about the size and shape of one. It seemed more orange in person, though. Wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrumis) is also called toothpaste slime mold because of the thick, pasty liquid that oozes out of them when they are squeezed. I think this might be one of them. They come in all colors except green (no chlorophyll) and can have a shiny coat or a more matte finish. This identification should not be taken as gospel though, because I have very limited experience in slime mold identification. Also, a single slime mold can change appearance several times; looking like an amoeba one day and a fungus the next. I think this tiny, almost perfect sphere is another wolf’s milk slime mold. Its outer shell was hard to the touch-many slime molds have hard shells that shatter into pieces. A good indication of how small it was can be gleaned from the mosses surrounding it-it was about the same diameter as a pea. I’d guess that it had a stalk which was hidden by the mosses. Slime molds aren’t fungi, plants, or animals-they are amoebas-single celled organisms-that come together in a mass when they are ready to produce spores.There are over 700 different species of slime molds and their shapes and colors vary greatly. This, I think, is a purple one. When slime molds run out of food-bacteria and yeasts- they literally begin to move and can often appear web or net like. They form streams of cells called pseudoplasmodium and move at about one millimeter per hour. Once they come together into a mass like that pictured the cells change their shape again and can form stalks that are capped by fruiting bodies. A fruiting body can look like either of the previous jellybean or sphere shapes, or can sometimes resemble blackberries, hair, dripping wax, and other shapes bizarre enough to be from another planet.
These fruiting bodies contain millions of spores which will eventually be dispersed by the wind. The purple mass pictured was small but the color made it stand out and it was very easy to see against the leaf litter. I think this might be Physarum polycephalum. This plasmodial slime mold, like many others, moves using cytoplasmic streaming, which is basically a contracting of “muscles” by all of the separate cells until they come together in a single mass. They then shift from the growth to the fruiting stage as described above with the purple slime mold. Slime molds die if they dry out, so most of this usually occurs at night or on damp, humid days after a rain. The bright color of this one made it easy to see. I’ve seen this same habit in white slime mold many times but never really paid much attention to it. Is this slime mold or just plain old forest leaf mold? I can’t answer that question but I have seen similar photos that were labeled slime molds. This mass covered quite a large area compared to others in this post. It was close to 2 feet long and about a foot wide.Here is yet another form that shape shifting slime molds can take. I believe this is the plasmodium stage of egg shell slime mold (Leocarpus fragilis.) These slime molds have a brittle outer shell that cracks and fractures like an eggshell. They will mature and become dry and turn first brown, and then gray. Blackish spores will be produced. Eggshell slime molds like to hang out on pine needles just like those pictured were doing. They also like logs, stumps, and sometimes will even appear on living plants. More egg shell slime mold (Leocarpus fragilis) on pine needles. (I think)I don’t think that these are slime mold fruiting bodies because the slightly deformed “cap” makes them look like jelly babies. Jelly babies are the fruiting bodies of a fungus in the Leotiaceae family. They come in a variety of colors but seem to always have the same shape. I saw these same fungi in July and wrote about them in a post called July forest finds. At that time I thought they might be young lipstick powder horns (Cladonia macilenta,) but now I think that they might be jelly babies. Whatever they are, this makes the third time in less than a month that I’ve seen them. Next time I see these-what I think are jelly babies-I’ll have to damage one to look under the cap to see if it has gills. These and those in the previous picture could be Cudonia circinans if they are pale brown to ochre, have thin flesh and are not gelatinous. To make matters even more confusing, there is another similar fungus called bog beacon.This is definitely gelatinous. This jelly fungus is called yellow witch’s butter or yellow brain fungus (Tremella mesenterica.) Many different species of fungi have gelatinous flesh that can be almost any color. This one was growing on the underside of a log in a brush pile. When it hasn’t rained and these dry out they turn dark orange.I found a pink slug dining on some fluorescent purple slime mold that had grown over some brownish bracket fungi. I love the colors in the slime mold. I have more pictures of another big pink slug that I ran into on this same day, but they’ll appear in another post.
“Without mysteries, life would be very dull indeed. What would be left to strive for if everything were known?” ~ Charles De Lint
If, like me, you think that slime molds are interesting and beautiful things, try going to You Tube and typing “Slime molds.” Once there you can watch time lapse videos of slime molds actually moving and growing. Thanks for stopping in.