Photo by Stephanie Smith
Here’s one of a few slime molds that have appeared beneath healthy tomato plants in our vegetable garden during the recent humid/thunderstorm weather. A slime mold is not an animal, plant or bacteria; nor is it considered a fungus, although it uses spores to reproduce. It’s basically its own category. Slime molds move around—sometimes “as fast as two centimeters per minute—looking for bacteria, fungi or decaying organic material to consume, flowing over and engufling the food as they ingest it, ejecting the inedible parts. (Source: Minn. Dept. of Natural Resources.) In our garden, it’s chomping on the mulch mixture I’ve been spreading beneath the plants. Slime molds are so sensitive to their environment that they can figure out mazes. Sentient? Good question. You can see why both Bosch and Haeckel loved these weird guys.
I’m guessing what we’ve got is of the Physarum polycephalum variety, but…I dunno. Perhaps it qualifies as “caca de luna” (or, “shit of the moon”), a variety of slime mold that some indigenous peoples in Mexico fry and eat as if it were scrambled eggs. This particular mold smells like a fresh mushroom and I can see a day (when Stephanie’s not around) when I might try it with some oil and fresh herbs…
More on slime molds: wikipedia