Posts Tagged ‘Physarum polycephalum’

1. Yellow Slime Mold

We’ve had some rainy weather here along with enough heat and humidity to get slime molds growing. I think this one 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. 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.” I think that they are very beautiful things and I always look forward to seeing them after a good summer rain storm.

2. Coral Fungus with Slime Mold

The slime mold had a friend growing nearby on the same log. I think it might be crown coral (Clavicorona pyxidata.) Crown coral branches at right angles like a candelabra and each branch ends in a tiny little crown, just like what is seen here. Black eyed Susans haven’t even blossomed yet so it seems very early to be seeing both slime molds and coral fungi, but there they are. Whether I understand it or not, nature has its way.

3. Brittle Cinder fungus aka Kretzschmaria deusta

Brittle Cinder fungi (Kretzschmaria deusta) in this stage are stunning, in my opinion. I like the powder gray against the bright white. However, since it causes soft rot and will kill a tree, it isn’t something I like to see growing on living, healthy trees. Later on the fruiting bodies will turn into a brittle black crust.

 4. Bug on a Maple Leaf

This crane fly sat still long enough for me to admire its stained glass like wings and get a couple of photos. Many young birds have been raised on these harmless insects that are often mistaken for mosquitos.

5. Gall on Maple Leaf caused by maple bladdergall mite  V. quadripedes 2

I’m colorblind and have a lot of trouble with red and green, but even I could see these bright red galls on this maple leaf. They were the size of the BBs that are used in BB guns and each one sat on a tiny stalk. They were caused by a member of the maple bladder gall mite family called Vasates quadripedes. Galls are unsightly on ornamental trees but they don’t hurt the tree at all.

 6. Beech Seedling with Seed Leaves

Unless you own a nursery or spend a good deal of time in the woods, there’s a good chance that you’ve never seen the seed leaves of an American beech tree (Fagus grandifolia.) Seed leaves are called cotyledons and appear before a plant’s true leaves. If the plant has 2 seed leaves it is called a dicot (dicotyledon), and if only one it is called a monocot (monocotyledon.) The cotyledons are part of the embryo within the seed and contain stored food that the young plant needs to grow. As the food stores are used up the cotyledons might either turn green and photosynthesize, or wither and fall off. That’s the quick botany lesson of the day.  It’s hard to make it any more exciting.

7. Beech Seed Leaves

Seed leaves, as anyone who has ever started vegetables from seed knows, often look nothing like the true leaves.  In the case of American beech they look more like flower petals than leaves and feel tough and leathery. If you know of a beech tree that produces nuts, take a look underneath it in the spring for seedlings that still have their seed leaves. They are a rare sight.

8. Honey Locut Thorn

I once read a story by a Massachusetts man who said he took great delight in running through the forest. Not on a trail-just through the forest-and I shiver a bit when I think of all of the reasons that one shouldn’t do such a thing. One of those reasons is the honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos.) Its thorns grow from the bark of the branches and trunk and can reach up to 8 inches long. They are also very hard and sharp enough to pierce flesh. Thorns on fallen branches could also puncture some shoe soles, so it’s best to be aware of your surroundings when near this tree. Admire it but don’t meet it accidentally.

 9. Shining Bur Sedge aka Carex intumescens

Many sedges, rushes and grasses are flowering now. This is shining bur sedge (Carex intumescens,) which is also called bladder sedge. The tiny white bits are its flowers. Most sedges like moist soil and I usually find them near ponds and streams. When trying to identify something that looks like grass I always feel the stem first. There is an old saying that says “sedges have edges” because of their triangular stems. Grasses have round stems.

10. Porcupine Sedge

Sedges can also have funny names. This one is (I think) called porcupine sedge (Carex hystericina.)

11. Panicled Bulrush aka Scirpus microcarpus

Every summer for the past three years I’ve tried to get a decent photo of panicled bulrush (Scirpus microcarpus) where it didn’t fade into the background. Finally, by using the flash on a bright day, its panicles of flowers and leaf like bracts stand out from the background cattails and silky dogwoods. This plant has a triangular stem, so it is in the sedge family. It is also called small fruited bulrush. Though they aren’t related and don’t even look very much alike these plants always remind me of papyrus, which reminds me of the pyramids of Egypt and what you could see floating down the Nile. Sometimes the mind wanders as you walk along.

 12. Flowering Orchard Grass

According to the book Grasses: An Identification Guide by Lauren Brown, George Washington loved orchard grass so much so that he wrote “Orchard grass of all others is in my opinion the best mixture with clover; it blooms precisely at the same time, rises quick again after cutting, stands thick, yields well, and both cattle and horses are fond of it green or in hay.” I just like to look at its flowers but it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who thinks grasses are exciting.

 13. Wool Sower Gall Wap Gall on White Oak

I’ve never seen anything quite like this gall on an oak limb. It was createdd by the wool sower gall wasp (Callirhytis seminator) and was the size of a ping pong ball but felt like a tennis ball. The gall is caused by secretions from the grubs of the gall wasp, which will only build it on white oak and only in spring. There are small seed like structures inside the gall which contain the wasp larva, and that’s why these galls are also called oak seed galls.

14. Royal Fern

Royal fern (Osmunda spectablis v. regalis) is one of the easiest plants in the forest to identify because nothing else looks quite like it. It has a light and airy appearance and is almost always found growing near water. The Osmunda part of the scientific name is believed to come from Osmunder, which is one of the Saxon names for the Norse god Thor. Royal fern is one of the oldest, largest and most beautiful ferns.

15. Ganoderma tsugae on Hemlock

Nature can show the brightest colors in the oddest places and I always wonder why. What benefit can this stalked bracket fungus called hemlock varnish shelf (Ganoderma tsugae) gain from all of that color? Do the colors relate to the minerals it is absorbing from this old hemlock log? And why do the colors change over time?

These are the kinds of questions that come to me as I wander through the woods, even though I don’t really expect to ever find the answers to them. Maybe there are no answers-maybe the colors are there just so we can admire them for a time and feel grateful to be alive in the midst of all of the natural beauty that surrounds us.

One of the hardest lessons we have to learn in this life, and one that many persons never learn, is to see the divine, the celestial, the pure, in the common, the near at hand – to see that heaven lies about us here in this world. ~John Burroughs

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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.


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