Careful Where You Step

October 29, 2021

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Photographer: Dale Hugo 

Summary Author: Dale Hugo; Jim Foster

If you’re out trick-or-treating this weekend, be careful where you step. This gross looking slime mold is called Fuligo septica, but its common name is, appropriately, the dog vomit fungus. It’s an artillery fungus that loves to grow on rich, fertilized mulch that many landscapers use. If you’re bold enough to touch it, a cloud of reddish-brown spores explodes and then drifts in the wind.

Fungi grows nearly everywhere. A type of fungus even grows between the windows of the International Space Station. More than 30,000 species of fungi are known to exist, with most not yet properly identified or verified. It’s believed that the largest single organisms on Earth, by mass, are fungi. One large and in charge fungus underlies an entire forest in Michigan and weighs hundreds of tons.

Surprisingly, there’s actually a type of slime mold capable of moving across the forest floor to reach and engulf its dinner. Now this is too scary even for Halloween. Photo taken in mid-July 2021, from Arlington Heights, Illinois.


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