What Is This...

Basidium basidium at aol.com
Tue Apr 30 03:35:26 EST 2002

>For the last few weeks I have seen what may be a fungus in a few spots
>around the Bay Area. On the ground there is a yellow creamy colored
>something that on the surface looks like a fine sponge rubber. The spot is
>maybe 20 to 40 sq. in. in area. Putting a stick into it and it's a wet
>gelataneous material. So what is this.
>Palo Alto CA

It's impossible to be certain from the description, but it certainly sounds
like you've got the plasmodial stage of "Scambled Egg Slime Mold," _Fuligo
septica_.  Typically bright yellow, there is also a cream-colored variant. 
This highly common species, also known as the "Dog Vomit Fungus" despite the
fact that it is not a fungus, can spread quite rapidly during wet spells.  It
feeds on bacteria, typically on wood mulch or other woody debris, then attempts
to migrate (move) onto a living plant before sporulating.

Really, I oughtn't refer to this as "it;" in reality, "it" is "they"---a swarm,
if you will, of billions of single-celled amoeba-like organisms which
"communicate" with one another biochemically, enabling the mass to behave as a
single organism.

I remember reading or hearing somewhere that the color variations may be more
the result of environmental factors than genetics.

After a few days (typically) this commonest and most conspicuous of slime molds
dries out; at that stage, poking it will reveal a powdery mass of dark brown
David W. Fischer
~check out audio samples from my new CD at www.ixnygraphics.com
Coauthor, "Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America" and
   "Mushrooms of Northeastern North America"
E-mail: basidium at aol.com
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