Yes. I’ve said it. I love slime mold!
Slime molds (or Myxomycetes) are some of the most unique organisms you will find in the woods.
They are not fungi, even though they sometimes look like it (and used to be classified as such).
They are not plants, even though they can have ‘stalks.’
They are not animals, even though they can find their way through a maze when there is food involved….
Protist. Slime molds are part of the PROTIST kingdom…the land of the misfit toys of the living world! What else is in this kingdom? Algae. Protozoa. Usually unicellular. Always unique.
There are two main types of slime molds – plasmodial (or acellular) slime molds and cellular slime molds. The slime molds that we find in the woods are usually plasmodial slime molds. The fruiting bodies that are produced as part of their life cycle look unlike anything else you will see in the forest.
I promise you, once you start looking for slime molds (and you actually find one)….you will be hooked! Red, orange, yellow, grey, black, white, the fruiting bodies come in all colors and AMAZING shapes. The color is often the first thing you will notice.
….Look closely, though, and it’s an entire teeny tiny world just waiting to be explored. These orange slime molds are either Trichia decipiens or a Hemetrichia species. Without looking at the microscopy, it’s virtually impossible to tell them apart. That is one goal for next summer, by the way. I need a lesson in spore microscopy from a certain cute guy who knows his way around a microscope….
While not the best picture of Arcyria cinerea, this shows it’s size well. These pictures were all taken with my Nikon D3300 with the Nikkor 18-55mm lens. Just wait until we get a little closer with extension tubes!!