It’s always exciting to discover a new species in the yard. Yesterday we found a chocolate tube slime mould (in the genus Stemonitis). A beautiful creature, and aptly named.
If you Google chocolate tube slime mould, you get lots of websites calling it a fungus. Let’s just get this straight right now. Slime moulds are not fungi. Not even close. They’re not even in the same Kingdom of life. Saying a slime mould is a fungus is about as accurate as saying you are a fungus.
We’re a bit nutty about slime moulds here at Crazy Corner Farm … Okay, we’re a little more than a bit nutty about slime moulds. My daughter and husband have been working for months on a slime mould bridge modelled after Physarum polycephalum.
Slime moulds are some of the strangest organisms you’ll find in your back yard. Many are named for their looks, and one of the most common species goes by the name ‘dog vomit slime mould’.
The two groups of slime moulds, plasmodial and cellular, are quite different from one another, and both types are weird and wonderful creatures. Plasmodial slime moulds can cover several square metres, but are made of just one cell filled with thousands of nuclei. They creep across the ground like a giant amoeba with pulsing waves of cytoplasm, engulfing and eating bacteria.
But they’re more than just quivering bags of goo; they can solve mazes, even choosing the most efficient pathway if there is more than one. Cellular slime moulds (which don’t form enormous multi-nucleus cells) can join together to create a multi-cellular organism when the need arises for a larger, more mobile body.
Slime moulds may even save us from the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria—researchers are working on ‘training’ cellular slime moulds to sense and destroy resistant bacteria.
So you can see why we were excited to find another species of slime mould living on our property! Who wouldn’t be excited by it?