I’ve just spotted something very exciting. This is Enteridium lycoperdon, the False Puffball, living in a damp wood near a stream and clinging onto a dead tree trunk.
It’s not a plant or a fungus, it’s a slime mould, one of over 1,000 species of organisms which have a bizarre life. This is one of the Myxogastria, one of several unrelated types of slime mould. I remember seeing one on the roof of our shed as a child and being utterly fascinated that something that wasn’t an animal, plant or fungus had assembled itself on the roof and was slowly moving and growing. I learned then about the two phases of their life – plasmodial and sporangial.
The first one, the plasmodium, is where single cells with multiple nuclei flow like an amoeba over surfaces and feed on dead plants, fungi and bacteria. The second one, the sporangium, is where they assemble together and form a great fruiting body and turn into spores together.
Soon, this impressive cluster will form a paper-like sheath and inside will form large quantities of brown spores. They will ripen and be released to the wind and spread to flow and grow and fruit somewhere else in the wet woodland.
It’s a beautiful thought.