In walking my dog this summer I have noticed more than the usual number of bright yellow patches associated with horticultural mulching. At first these yucky patches used to remind me of animal-vomit; a bit of reading and research has enlightened me. To think — here is an almost microscopic mass of living protoplasm that is capable of flowing in thin films of water over dead leaves as it ingests organic matter. Slime molds have complicated life cycles that challenge being classified as a plant or animal: its inclusion in the kingdom Fungi is now questioned.
Before fruiting, slime molds have no definite shape and color; at fruiting, many change from a bright yellow to a dried brown patch. Slime molds are not harmful to plants, since they feed on dead organic matter. By raking the mulch the slime mold is exposed to drying; colorful yellow, lavender, or pink slime molds will then await the next “wet” spell.
Copyright © 2004 William T. Hathaway.