Most slime molds aren’t really very slimy-or moldy-but they are interesting and can be quite beautiful. As I find more of them I become even more fascinated by the seemingly endless variety of colors and shapes. The only problem with slime molds is that light is their enemy. They grow in the darkest areas- under logs and behind rocks-and that can make photographing them a real challenge, so you’ll have to bear with me if these aren’t the sharpest photos you’ve seen.
The book Mushrooms of Northeast (no, not northeastern) North America-Midwest to New England by George Barron has quite a good section on slime molds and it starts off with one that closely resembles this one, called Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa. I believe that the photo above shows the cylindrical white fruiting bodies of Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, variety fruticulosa. These fruiting bodies are so fragile that one swipe of a finger can destroy hundreds of them.I think these are the fruiting bodies of the second variety of Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, called porioides. These objects that resemble geodesic domes are so small that I couldn’t see any of the detail until I zoomed in on the photo-then I cropped it so you could see it too. It’s not as sharp as I’d like, but it gives an idea of some of the incredible shapes found in nature. According to my mushroom book this slime mold is “very common and fruits in scattered clusters on well-rotted logs.” That’s exactly where these grew.Another slime mold has fruiting bodies that are shaped and colored much like blackberries. It is called Metatrichia vesparium. I’m not positive that is what those in the photo are, but they are black and shaped very much like a blackberry. The problem is they should be very shiny. These seem to have dried out before they could complete the cycle and become a mass of fluffy threads, called Capillitium.Conditions have to be perfect, with the right temperature, moisture and light levels for a slime mold to fruit. If these conditions aren’t present the slime mold can go into a kind of suspended animation called Sclerotium. When it is in this state it becomes a hard crust that resists a finger poke. When conditions return to what the slime mold needs this resting, multicellular mass will germinate and produce hundreds, or even thousands of fruiting bodies. This mass was quite hard. All the separate amoeba-like entities that made up this yellow slime had come together and were preparing to fruit. One of them, way over on the left, was a slow poke. I think this might be the “many headed slime” (Physarum polycephalum.)Not all slime molds that look like this are hardened and in suspended animation. Some, like Fuglio septica, form a “cake like mass that can be white, tan, yellowish, and red-brown.” My color finding software sees all of those colors in this one, along with lemon chiffon and blanched almonds. (Two shades of yellow.) This slime mold forms a “smooth, brittle crust which breaks easily to reveal a black spore mass.” Fuglio septica can move as much as 3 feet and can climb onto stumps, logs, and living plants. Mucilago crustacean is another slime mold that forms a “cake like mass.” This species fruits on rotting leaves and wood, with an outside layer of “crystalline, chalky material that gives it a white, crusty texture.” The spore mass inside is black. The slime mold in the photo seems to fit the description. I’m not sure if this is it, but another slime mold which lives in rotting logs and is often used in research is Physarum polycephalum. It has the appearance of a “web-work of yellow threads, up to a few feet in size.” This one wasn’t entirely yellow but it had yellow in it, as well as blue, gray, tan and green and it had just started forming webs.This one had plenty of yellow but it was hairy and wasn’t forming a web. I’m not sure what its name is, but I like its orange and cream colors. Blue is a color that is often hard to find in nature so I am always on the lookout for it. Usually though, due to color blindness, what I see as blue usually turns out to be purple. That’s exactly what I thought the outer edges of this slime mold were, but they’re blue. I’m not sure which species it is. I’ve found pictures of unidentified slime molds that look identical to these hairy white ones, but I haven’t found any information about them in a book. I’m surprised that nobody seems to know what they are, because they are common-I see them regularly.I don’t like using a flash, but as I said at the beginning of this post-slime molds grow in dark places. This one was in the plasmodium stage, which is rarely seen, and I was determined to get a picture of it, flash or no. It was so dark that there was no other way.
Paraphrased from Mushroom Expert. Com : “Slime mold plasmodium is a mass of glistening vein-like material that creeps across dead leaves, wood, or soil at the rate of as much as an inch per hour, growing and eating.”
“When the plasmodium stage runs out of food (or when light or moisture changes alter its environment), it converts itself into sporangia-globs or balls made up of spores. In some kinds of slime molds, the sporangia have stems; in others the stem is missing; in still others a large, single sporangium is developed.“
In the photo above the yellow sporangia sit at the top of hair-like stems. I found these growing on a log.
“Eventually, a single spore germinates, becomes amoeba-like and comes together with other amoeba-like bodies to become a zygote. A zygote then grows into a plasmodium and repeats the cycle.”
To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part ~ Aldo Leopold
I hope you find slime molds interesting, as I do-or if not interesting, at least fun to look at. Thanks for stopping by.