As an amateur mycologist, that is the question that I am asked far more often than any other natural history subject. Most people know enough about natural history to at least come up with some idea. “That was a weird bird.” or “where did that crazy fly come from?” But sometimes people look down and just see something they have never come across in their whole lives and they can’t even begin to categorize it. Most of the time ‘that stuff’ falls into the fungi or at least fungi ‘relatives’.
In this case it’s a slime mold!!! I love slime molds. If I was in the U.K. I’d love Slime Moulds. So slime molds or Myxomycota or Myxozoa aren’t really fungi. They are in fact a really wacky group of single-celled organisms (closer to animals) that hang out by themselves and munch on decaying material. Then outta nowhere they get some mystical signal to move and they all join together and form these fruiting bodies, at least some do. The fruiting bodies contain spores that when mature blow away and make new little slime molds when the time is right. While the structures can be pretty complicated and unique, these mounds are called aethalia.
These are the wolf’s milk slime mold also called the wolf’s teet slime mold. Sciency people often refer to them as Lycogala epidendrum. They start out pink (see the first image) and when mature turn a grayish brown color. Where does the common name come from? Well a little known fact is that a wolf’s milk is actually pink in color. The fresh slime mold has a liquidy substance inside that squeezes out looking like wolf’s milk. Although, having never milked a wolf… I’m taking their word for it.
Do slime molds sound interesting? Just wait, there will be plenty more coming up in the future!! There’s some dog vomit outside just ready for blogging too!