|Physarum polycephalum on a tree trunk - all pictures from Mark Bower|
|Close-up of the "heads"|
"This is Physarum polycephalum, the "Many-headed Slime", or the "Grape Cluster Slime". This is the plasmodial phase after the single celled organisms have "decided" to coalesce into a creepy yellow mass with bulbous areas (these are the "heads"). These pictures were taken at Valley Water Mill. The second picture (on the right) is a close-up of the "heads"."
|Notice the faint streak of yellow in the green bark furrow|
"The next day, I excitedly went back to the tree for some better pictures and I thought it was gone (light was dim). I thought the darned thing had slinked away. After scouring the area around the tree (20 yard radius, I gave up on finding it. However, when I went back to the tree, the light was better and it appeared that it was still there, but had changed color to a greenish hue, (see above) and it had developed the grape-like spore stalks."(see below)
|Note that most had turned dark green, now with grape-like spore stalks|
"I collected some of these green spore clusters and took them home. After arriving home about 1 1/2 hours later, the green clusters had already turned yellowish. The next day, they broke open and released the brown spores."
|Green clusters had already turned toward yellow|
|Next day - Broken open and releasing spores|
Yes there are myxomycologists, and we will all have a chance to meet one who literally"wrote the book" on slime molds. Dr. Steve Stephenson is a Research Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Arkansas. He wrote Myxomycetes: A Handbook of Slime Molds as well as many other books and papers on related fields. He will be at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center on Friday, November 21 at 7:00 PM discussing "Myxomycetes- Slime Molds in Nature." This is a great opportunity to hear more fascinating details from the expert.
P. polycephalum is not just another pretty face. Although a single celled organism, it seems to be able as a mass to make decisions that our congress might envy. More on that in a future blog.
* The Kingdom Fungi, Steven Stephenson, Timber Press, 2010.