Minnesota Slime Molds

 
No Taxonomic Rank: Slime Molds
 

Slime mold is a term of convenience grouping together several kinds of evolutionarily unrelated organisms. They were formerly placed in the subkingdom Gymnomycota within the Fungi kingdom, because they produce structures containing spores (sporangia). The modern classification has them divided among several supergroups. In taxonomic terms, the group slime molds is polyphyletic. The taxonomy of slime molds changes frequently—it is a work in progress.

Slime molds are characterized by the following:

  • The cell walls contain cellulose, not chitin;
  • They can live independently but can aggregate together to form multicellular reproductive structures;
  • They have both a haploid phase, in which each cell nucleus contains one chromosome for each trait, and a diploid phase, in which each cell nucleus contains two chromosomes for each trait, all the chromosomes necessary for reproduction; and
  • Their life cycle consists of a protozoa-like amoeba stage (plasmodium) and a fungus-like spore-producing stage.

red raspberry slime mold

Photo by Kirk Nelson

 

 

           
Recent Additions
     
Dog vomit slime mold
     

Plasmodial slime molds are single-celled organisms, masses of protoplasm without cell walls and with thousands of nuclei. Like animals, they move and violently eject unwanted inorganic materials. Like amoeba, they feed by engulfing particles of food. Like fungi, they reproduce by producing fruit bodies containing spores that are distributed by wind. Formerly classified as fungi, plasmodial slime molds are now known to be unrelated.

Dog vomit slime mold (Fuligo septica) is a plasmodial slime mold. It has a worldwide distribution, occurring on every continent except Greenland and Antarctica. It is often found in urban areas from May to October. It grows on the rotten wood of stumps, logs, and wood mulches; on garden soil enriched with manure; and also on living plants. It may migrate one meter or more to nearby food sources. It feeds on bacteria, spores of fungi and non-flowering plants, protozoa, and nonliving organic matter. Its common name accurately describes its appearance. It is not edible.

Dog vomit slime mold may appear as a cushion-like mass, a slimy sheet, or a crust-like sheet. When it first appears it is white to yellow and slimy. At some point it transforms into a large, cushion-like, white or yellowish fruiting body covered by a brittle crust. Breaking the crust away reveals a dull black spore mass.

  dog vomit slime mold
  Photo by Chris Olcott
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
     
Many-headed slime
     

Many-headed slime (Physarum polycephalum) is a plasmodial slime mold. It has been reported in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, North America, and South America. Most reports are from the eastern United States. All but a few plasmodial slime molds are invisible to the naked eye, are usually overlooked, and are little studied. Many-headed slime is an exception in all respects. It is most often found on a growth medium (agar) in laboratories, where it is frequently used in researching cell development, protoplasmic streaming, and nuclear behavior. In one interesting study it was “shown” that it “solved” a maze. In nature it is found on shaded rotting wood in forests, in woodlands, and even in treed suburbs. It is short lived, appearing after a soaking rain and disintegrating in just a few days.

Many-headed slime lives in rotting wood feeding on fungi and bacteria. In late summer and fall, after a soaking rain, it creeps to the surface of the substrate. It appears as a bright yellow, many-branched network of veins that creep along the surface. Protoplasm can be seen streaming within the veins. When exposed to light it produces spore-bearing structures (sporangia). The sporangia differ from other slime molds in having multiple heads, hence the common name many-headed slime.

  many-headed slime
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
     
Honeycomb coral slime mold
     

Protostelid slime molds are relatively unknown and easily overlooked. They were first recognized in the early 1960s and have been little studied since. There are 36 currently accepted species, and possibly twice that number of undescribed species. Most are microscopic. Only a few are visible to the naked eye.

Honeycomb coral slime mold (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa) is the most commonly encountered protostelid slime mold and may be the most common slime mold of any kind in the world. It occurs on every continent except Greenland and Antarctica. It is found in forests on rotting fallen logs and branches. It can form extensive colonies one meter or more long. It is very short lived, appearing after a soaking rain and disintegrating in just a few days.

Honeycomb coral slime mold first appears as a thin, watery, translucent, mucus-like layer, creeping across the wood, engulfing bacteria, protozoa, and particles of nonliving organic matter. Eventually it fruits, forming clusters of erect, translucent columns. The columns have a frosted or powdery appearance due to a dense covering of tiny, white, spores on long, thread-like stalks.

  honeycomb coral slime mold
  Photo by Alfredo Colon
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
     
Wasp nest slime mold
     

Wasp nest slime mold (Metatrichia vesparium) is common and widespread. It is found in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and North and South America. In the United States it is common east of the Great Plains, including Minnesota, less common in the west. It grows in open forests on dead and rotting wood, especially hardwood.

The fruiting body may be attached directly to the substrate or rise in a densely crowded group of up to twelve on a common stalk. The individual spore-producing structures are dark red or reddish-purple to nearly black, less than in height, and about 1 32 in diameter. They are mostly cone-shaped and have a convex, shiny, iridescent, lid on top. When mature, the lid swings open like a jack-in-the-box, and the red or rust-red interior expands outward. When this dries out, the spores are disbursed by wind. Eventually, the expanded portion disintegrates. What is left looks like the nest of a paper wasp, giving this slime mold its common name.

  wasp nest slime mold
  Photo by Luciearl
   
   
   
   
   
   
     
Red raspberry slime mold
     

Slime mold is a term of convenience grouping together several kinds of unrelated organisms. They were formerly placed in the Fungi kingdom because they produce structures containing spores (sporangia). The modern classification has them divided among several supergroups. The taxonomy of slime molds changes frequently—it is a work in progress.

Red raspberry slime mold is one of the most commonly encountered slime molds in woodlands. It appears from June through November as a pink to bright red, pillow-shaped, tightly-packed mass on well-rotted logs, sometimes on moss. The surface is knobby, like a raspberry. It is not edible.

  red raspberry slime mold
  Photo by Kirk Nelson
   
   
   
     
Other Recent Additions
     

wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum)

  wolf’s milk slime mold
  Photo by Beth Harrington

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             

This list includes only slime molds that have been recorded in Minnesota, but not all of the slime molds found in Minnesota.

             
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dog vomit slime mold

honeycomb coral slime mold

many-headed slime

red raspberry slime mold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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wolf’s milk slime mold

       

ashen slime mold (Physarum cinereum)

 
       

carnival candy slime mold (Arcyria denudata)

 
       

Chinese lantern slime mold (Dictydium cancellatum)

 
       

dog sick slime mold (Mucilago crustacea)

 
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dog vomit slime mold (Fuligo septica)

 
       

egg shell slime mold (Leocarpus fragilis)

 
       

false puffball, the (Enteridium lycoperdon)

 
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honeycomb coral slime mold (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa)

 
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many-headed slime (Physarum polycephalum)

 
       

plasmodial slime mold (Dictydium cancellatum)

 
       

pretzel slime mold (Hemitrichula serpula)

 
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red raspberry slime mold (Tubifera ferruginosa)

 
       

slime mold (Arcyria cinerea)

 
       

slime mold (Arcyria nutans)

 
       

slime mold (Badhamia utricularis)

 
       

slime mold (Comatricha typhoides)

 
       

slime mold (Cribraria intricata)

 
       

slime mold (Diachea leucopodia)

 
       

slime mold (Dictydiaethalium plumbeum)

 
       

slime mold (Hemitrichia calyculata)

 
       

slime mold (Lycogala flavofuscum)

 
       

slime mold (Physarella oblonga)

 
       

slime mold (Physarum bivalve)

 
       

slime mold (Stemonitis axifera)

 
       

slime mold (Trichia decipiens)

 
       

slime mold (Trichia favoginea)

 
       

tapioca slime mold (Brefeldia maxima)

 
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wasp nest slime mold (Metatrichia vesparium)

 
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wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum)

 
       

yellow-fuzz cone slime mold (Hemitrichia clavata)

 
       

 

 

 

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