Monday, August 5, 2013

Slime mold time! Again!

Our friends the slime molds start showing up pretty early in spring, and seem to just keep showing up all summer, as long as they find the right situation--moist, well-rotted logs.

Stemonitis immature white chocolate tube immature
Above, immature Stemonitis. Each little ball in the glob is about a millimeter wide.

The white and the yellow globs could be two different species. I was assuming it was the same species because this log was just covered with chocolate tube slime. And it’s not really accurate to say it’s an immature phase, either, because it had a very active lifestyle before it got to this point.

As far as I understand it, the germinated spores live as independent single-cell organisms, eating bacteria and things. They fuse together (Lord knows how they get the word out and get organized), then start sliming around as a mass, called a plasmodium. One source says they “can grow to the size of a large pizza”. And it moves. One respectable site says up to an inch an hour; others say 1/25th of an inch. I don't know. Somebody else mentioned that’s why you can find the colored sheet of slime somewhere, and then it won’t be there at all later.

Haven’t witnessed that myself, yet.

They live like that for a while until things get bad, then they go nuts and start to get differentiated and form various club-shaped structures (depending on the species) with spores on (or in) them, which get dispersed by wind or rain or animals, and the whole thing starts again.

Stemonitis group on log
A log covered with chocolate tube slime, Stemonitis splendens.
No longer slimy at this stage.


Stemonitis splendens triple clump




The two bigger clumps are about an inch across. This is just before they’re fully mature and start to spread apart and spew their spores.

Below, chocolate tube slime, ready to disperse spores. If you blow on them a little cocoa cloud of spores lets go. Don’t inhale it, okay?

Stemonitis

Everybody hears the words “slime mold” and thinks it’s a big joke. But I love slime molds!

Now here is some wolf’s-milk slime, Lycogala epidendrum.

wolf's milk 2

They start out this fabulous pink, filled with pink goo, which is why another common name is “toothpaste slime”. You can see very, very tiny ones just starting too.

Wolf's-milk-007

They go through an orange phase. I don’t know why some of the ones above seem to be leaking tiny drops of goo. Faeries poked them with pins?

In the foreground and background are older ones (blurry dark balls). As they age they turn plum-colored, and finally steel grey, and the goo becomes chalky and pale purple. Worth knowing if you find old ones and wonder what the heck they are.

They’re common in Missouri woods, but who can resist that wild pink?

Hemitrichia clavata

Hemitrichia clavata. Common name “yellow-fuzz cone slime”! Each ball (sporangia) is on a little stalk. The blurry areas are where the tops of the sporangia have opened up and spewed out spores on a tangle of fibers.

Couldn’t get any closer on this one, no room.

Below, two examples of what might make you say, “What’s that pink stuff?” when you're walking around in the woods.

raspberry raspberry w/ foot

It’s raspberry slime mold, Tubifera ferruginosa. If you click on the one on the left to view larger you can see it. That shot was taken as I was standing on the trail. It’s pink!


Tubifera ferruginosa looking down log


A hefty crop of raspberry slime mold.

Tubifera close

Now that I think about it, I don’t know what it looks like in other stages…maybe I've seen it and didn't realize it.

Next slime mold:

Hemitrichia clavata

Above, that’s about the limit of my hand-held point-and-shoot camera! But I don’t know if it’s Hemitrichia calyculata or Trichia decipiens. They both seem to have a phase of orange balls on a whitish stalk.

If you made it this far, you’re about to see something that will make all your time reading this post worth it!

Metatrichia vesparium distant

Not yet! From a distance, just some vague rust-colored something on a fallen tree.

But holy cows! Look at this stuff!

Metatrichia vesparium

Metatrichia vesparium, “wasp-nest slime”!

I've seen this before, but not in such a dense colony!

wasp-nest slime

Here you can see where it gets its common name. The group of emptied sporangia looks like a paper wasp nest!

Slime mold: not as funny as you thought!

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for telling my what the chocolate tube slime was. I have some on my deck but had no clue what it was or how to look it up. Nifty.

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    1. Glad it helped! Sometimes serendipity is the only way I can ID things...

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