I guess it goes to show that things sometime take on a life of their own, as this blog has apparently done. The subjects of some of my posts are definitely evidence of this.
For example, wildflowers are prominently featured in my entries, although I didn’t have much knowledge of or interest in wildflowers, when I started this blog. It was because of the blog itself that my fascination with wildflowers developed.
Oops! I got a little off the subject. This post is supposed to be about slime mold. And why slime mold? Well many of the entries are the result of discoveries I make in my own back yard. So when I encounter something new and interesting, I try to find out more about it. And if it seems like it might intrigue others, then I share it.
So back to the slime mold. I found these orange little beauties on a rotten alder trunk just off the wooded trail in my back yard two days ago. From the information I have gathered, this type of slime mold grows and develops on dead, partly de-barked wet or damp deciduous tree trunks found in the shade. This all fits my location with the exception of the moisture content. It has been 51 days since our last rainfall. During the earlier part of this time period the temperatures were lower than average, but the last couple weeks the highs have been from the mid 80s and low 90s. Everything is pretty dry. Even in the woods. So it is a mystery to me why this slime mold, which I have never noticed before, shows up now.
So what exactly are slime molds? They are neither plant nor animal. Slime molds were once regarded as fungi, but are now classified in an entirely different kingdom called Protista which includes algae and protozoans.
In their initial phase of life, they are small amoeba-like single celled organisms which spend their time searching for bacteria and fungi to eat.
When a significant number exist, they join together to form a fruiting body in what is called the plasmodium stage. During this phase they can still move, but only at a pace of approximately 1 mm per hour. When they run out of food, they dry up and release their spores. These spores begin the whole life cycle again.
This particular slime mold is either Lycogala epidendrum or Lycogala terrestre. Microscopic examination of the spores is required for a definite determination. The common name is wolf’s milk. In the photos above, the largest of the fruiting bodies is no more than one quarter of an inch across. The image of the mature slime mold, which is brownish, was taken less than 24 hours after the photo of the orange slime mold, and shows how quickly the transformation takes place.