With the wet spring we’ve had (3 to 5 inches of rain above normal February to April in many Missouri counties), it’s no surprise that unusual things are growing out there. But a truly impressive blob caught my eye as I was looking over the latest Missouri Forest Health Update. Missouri Conservation Forest Entomologist Rob Lawrence and Forest Pathologist Bruce Moltzan cover the latest on what’s happening with insects and diseases relative to trees. Bruce said I could just share directly what he had to say about a strange sight:
Orange Slime Mold
A Missouri homeowner was surprised by an orange-colored "blob" covering a dead branch recently in her backyard. After sending a couple of digital images to the lab, it was determined to be a ‘slime mold’ belonging to the phylum Myxomycota. The term "mold" is really a misnomer since these are not fungi existing in nature as a blob of protoplasm without cell walls and only a cell membrane to keep everything together. It is really nothing more than a large amoeba which feeds similarly by engulfing its food (mostly bacteria) with its pseudopodia (projection that helps it move and capture prey).
Every year people see things that look like "dog barf" in their mulch piles,
and they wonder where did it come from and how do I get rid of it! As Tom Volk (University of Wisconsin mycologist) points out, this is where the idea for the movie “The Blob”came from.
Again, with our soggy start to spring 2008, we have had a whole number of slimy, fungal things come to life in the forest. Slime molds are merely doing their job of decomposition on dead woody material. We even had a bumper crop of morels this year which folks tell me are bringing $25 per pound at sale in farmers markets, so, “Hey, I guess fungi aren’t all bad.”