From the Missouri Conservationist Magazine
October 2019 Issue

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round slime balls
Shutterstock NK-55

Wild Guide

Wolf’s-Milk Slime (Toothpaste Slime) Lycogala epidendrum

Status

Not edible

Size

1/3–5/8 inch

Distribution

Statewide

These little round, reddish-pink balls, called wolf’s-milk slime, have certainly rolled around the scientific community. They belong to a group called slime molds, funguslike organisms once regarded as animals. Later, they were considered plants and then fungi. Now, due to DNA studies, slime molds are believed to be closer to protozoa and studied by botanists and mycologists. You can find them in large groups on dead wood between June and November. If you pop one, a pinkish-orange substance, the texture of toothpaste, will ooze out.

Life Cycle

Wolf’s-milk slime has two life-cycle stages — plasmodium and sporangia. During the first stage, huge, single-celled amoeba go unnoticed as they creep along dead plant material, engulfing and digesting bacteria, yeasts, and fungi. At the second, more fungus like stage, spores float away to reproduce elsewhere, starting the cycle all over again.

Ecosystem Connections

Wolf’s-milk slime feeds on bacteria, yeasts, and fungi on decaying materials, like rotting wood. It is consumed by other organisms, such as fungi, nematodes, and small insects.

Did You Know?

Slime molds have long-been a source of fascination and have even inspired science-fiction movies, such as The Blob in 1958.

Also in this issue

Wolf Spider

Little Wolves of Missouri

Wolf spiders are distinctive, diverse, and beneficial.

Pecan in the shuck

Pecans

This native Missouri nut benefits humans, wildlife, and the economy.

Cerulean Warbler

Flight Tracker

New technology aids in keeping tabs on migratory birds.

And More...

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This Issue's Staff:

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler