Posts Tagged ‘Yellow Slime Mold’

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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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.


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