This month I have selected something a little different. It occurs throughout the year but mainly in the autumn, it’s a slime mold & Mike and I encountered it on one of our walks in late October. Slime molds are interesting because they exhibit the characteristics of both animals and fungi. Their spores are typical of fungi but the ability to creep across the surface and feed by absorbing bacteria and tiny bits of organic material are suggestive of the animal kingdom.
Found on abandoned decaying logs, mostly coniferous & reportedly occasionally on leaf litter. This fruit body (more correctly pseudoaethalia) is composed of a mass of spore bearing columns, each column varying in cross section from cylindrical to ovate. The individual column can be up to 0.4mm diameter and 5mm high. In some instances the columns are not always clearly defined, the pseudoaethalia looking more like a knobbly mass.
The pseudoaethalia is generally a shade of orange which matures to dark brown at which point it is very fragile and disintegrates readily. Each column is a spore bearing fruit body in its own right, the mass of columns sit upon a thin gelatinous layer interlaced with fine white threads like drawn out cotton wool. The aggregate of columns can form mats more than 5cm across.
Each individual column has a lid at its tip that opens or ruptures in an irregular way to release spores. See top left image.