many-headed slime

(Physarum polycephalum)

Conservation Status
many-headed slime
  IUCN Red List

not listed


not listed


not listed


Many-headed slime 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.


Similar Species

Habitat and Hosts

Forests, woodlands, and suburbs on shaded rotting wood




Late summer and fall


Distribution Map



7, 26, 29, 30.




Widespread but not common

  Kingdom Protozoa (protozoans)  
  Phylum Mycetozoa (slime molds)  
  Class Myxomycetes (true slime molds)  
  Order Physarales  
  Family Physaraceae  





Didymium polycephalum

Lignydium polycephalum

Tilmadoche polycephala


Common Names


many-headed slime









A spore bearing structure, as of a fern, moss, or slime mold. Plural: sporangia.

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Hours after a soaking rain ...

    many-headed slime   many-headed slime  
    many-headed slime   many-headed slime  
    many-headed slime      

... and two days later

    many-headed slime   many-headed slime  
    many-headed slime   many-headed slime  
    many-headed slime      






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Other Videos
  Mould Time-lapse - The Great British Year: Episode 4 Preview - BBC One

Oct 18, 2013

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More about this programme: A yellow slime mould moves across the forest floor, searching for its white fungus food source.

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Caption author (English)

  What Has No Brain, 720 Sexes, And the Ability to Self-Heal?!

Dec 23, 2019

  How This Blob Solves Mazes | WIRED

Oct 25, 2019

Physarum polycephalum is a single-celled, brainless organism that can make “decisions,” and solve mazes. Anne Pringle, who is a mycologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explains everything you need to know about what these slime molds are and how they fit into our ecosystem.

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How This Blob Solves Mazes | WIRED




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Burnsville, MN





Created: 8/15/2020

Last Updated:

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