Tuesday, April 21, 2009


When I first saw these pink and gray blobs on a rotting log in Discovery Park, I thought they must be some kind of mushroom. It turns out they're much weirder.

But mushrooms don't behave like this. Fred Rhoades, a lichen and fungus expert, who lives in Bellingham and is in the process of retiring from Western Washington University, set me straight. This is a slime mold: Lycogala epidendrum, or Wolf Milk Slime. Much of its life it's a big pink blob, with no cell walls, but many nuclei, oozing through the rotting wood like an amoeba, out of sight of human observers. But when conditions are right to make spores, it forms these little cushions, which start off rosy like the amoeba and then darken to gray.

Eventually, they'll become brittle and break to release powdery spores.

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