Smile Molds

There are over 500 different types of slime molds, or myxomycetes as the scientific world calls them.  Slime molds have been difficult to classify for years do to the fact that they exhibit characteristics of both fungi and animals. In the feeding stage, the slime molds moves about as a mass of protoplasm(the plasmodium)feeding on bacteria, spores, and other organic matter, much like an amoeba does. When conditions become unfavorable, the plasmodium changes, taking on the appearance of a fungus.

There are two major types of slime molds in the Protist Kingdom.  The first kind are the Plasmodial slime molds or true slime molds.  They are a rather large singled celled mass with thousands and thousands of nuclei called a plasmodium. They form when individual flagellated cells gather together in a bunch and fuse. This results in one large cytoplasm. The second kind of slime mold spends most of its life as single celled organism that lives alone. It is also known in the scientific world as acrasiomycetes. They release of a chemical signal, gather together, and become a mass called a pseudoplasmodia and eventually multicellular slug.  They have different reproductive means and are often separated from plasmodial by scientist.

Many kinds of slime molds reproduce by means on spores.  The spores drift along in the wind or are carried about by animals and insects much like seeds are.  Also, like seeds the spores wait until conditions are favorable before developing.  The spore are unable to move on there own.  If smile molds reproduced sexually they may be considered to be an Animal instead of an Protist.  However, not all slime molds reproduce exactly the same way.

The slime mold has a simple environment.  They can be found in cool, damp places were they can easily find food.  Most species that feed on decaying organic matter, bacteria, protozoa, and other minute organisms, which they engulfs and digests.  They may live on plants, but do not try to kill the plant to eat.  They do not mean to harm the plant, although they sometimes smother the plant in which they are living on by not allowing sun light reach the leaves.

A slime mold may be either bright colored or inconspicuous.  They come in many different shapes and forms. They can be found in different sizes ranging from less than an inch to several feet wide. They also come in many different colors.  They are most often an ugly brown color are draws attention.  Although they may come in more attractive colors such as yellow, red, and blue.

Ceratiomyxaceae is a family that differs slightly from all the other myxomycetes. They are the only one to produce fruiting body’s that consist of a simple or variously branched columns. Spores are produced off these, on the end of a thread like stalks. There are only three genus to this family, the most common is Ceratiomyxa. Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa is very common and can often be found growing on soft decaying logs. It is about 2 mm tall and 2 mm wide on average, thought it can be found larger and smaller.

Another interesting family is the Enteridiaceae.  Members of the Enteridiaceae family generally produce either aethalia or pseudoaethalia fruiting body’s, which very in size from 3 mm to 15 mm.  Threw out there life most species change color several times making them rather difficult to identify.  The species Lycogala epidendrum is often seen and is one of the most common.  They change color many times threw out their life cycle.  They are oval or circular shaped and have a shell like an egg.  The shell brakes open releasing the spores into the air.

An often easy to recognize family is Trichiaceae.  When they are immature they look much little balloons, and they have a shine to them.  As they grow they go threw several color changes from white, to red, to brown before they become mature adults.  Once completely mature they start to look more like small umbrellas and less like balloons.  However, some species look much unlike the others.

Some gardeners complain of smile molds taking away from their gardens.  Slime molds often find gardens to be good homes due to the fact that they are normally well watered and get a lot of sun.  They are hard to kill. Chemicals will not kill them, but will kill the plants in the garden or any animals that may consume them.  The easiest was to kill the smile mold is to not give it water, and to brake it up with a rake so that air may circulate threw it. However, because the spores will become dormant in unfavorable conditions, the smile mold may grow back as soon as you start to water your garden again.