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Slime Mould

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When working around the barn recently, I noticed a white patch of…something. When I bent down to take a closer look, I found that it was a sort of crusty white pocket, with something black within. I wondered if it might be some sort of egg sack, but upon further investigation, I learned that it was a slime mould, Mucilago crustacea. Or more specifically, this was the fruit body, or aethalium, of M. crustacea.

Slime moulds are composed mostly of a mass of slimy protoplasm that spend most of their lives hidden away inside well-rotted logs or leaf litter. When it is time to fruit, they migrate to a more advantageous location for spore dispersal, and may travel several feet or climb walls or trees.

Mucilago crustacea

The fruitbody of M. crustacea has an outside wall of a chalky material that gives it a crusty texture. The spore-mass within is black. After a few days, I noticed that the crusty surface had cracked, releasing the powdery dark spores.

Many mushrooms are hard for the casual amateur to identify, even with a guide book, but a helpful source is George Barron’s Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada. Quite highly recommended.

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A sac fungus and a slime mould

When hiking through the woods, I noticed this fungus growing on an old rotting stump. The way in which the fungus looks like the stump’s ear made me smile, and I stopped long enough to take a photograph. I touched the cup to get a sense of its texture. It was firm and rather rubbery.

My mycological expertise is limited to a few common species, but I recognised this cup-shaped growth as a sac fungus. None of the choices in my guide book, George Barron’s Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada, seems to match my find exactly, but it most closely resembles Humaria hemisphaerica. Correction: David William Fischer of AmericanMushrooms.com identifies this fungus as a Peziza species, likely P. praetervisa.

I was interested to read that sac fungi make up the largest division of all the fungi and are very diverse. Sac fungi are so named because the spores are produced in a sac-like cell, not because the fungi themselves are sack-shaped. The sac fungi include some very well-known members such as morels and truffles. Also included in this category is a species most gardeners recognise, powdery mildew (Erysiphe chichoracearum).

Under the cup fungus, you can also see clusters of small round orangy-brown dots. It’s a type of slime mold, probably a Hemitrichia spp. as per Mr. Fischer. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice it till I got home and looked at my photo of the cup fungus, or I would have tried to get a better photograph of the slime mould as well.

mildew

Powdery mildew on phlox leaves

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