It’s not slime and it’s not mould

Slime moulds are interesting things. They are not animals, plants or fungi; they are single-celled organisms.

Most of the time the individual organisms are off doing their own thing and we can’t see them. But when conditions are right they crowd together and the mass becomes big enough for us to notice. As the organisms start to gather they appear like a film of slime over things – hence their common name of slime mould. Once clumped together, the organisms produce spores and reproduce.

What is really remarkable about slime moulds is that they can move. We usually think that it is only animals that can move – plants and fungi can grow and get bigger but animals can pick themselves up and completely relocate. Slime moulds can do this too. Their movement is slow but it can be measured. The fastest recorded movement of a slime mould is 1.35mm per second. That’s 8cm per minute – fast enough to see it happening!

For most of their life slime moulds are living in fallen tree trunks, branches or leaf litter. They are eating their way through the dead vegetation and recycling nutrients back into the soil. Slime moulds are a part of the circle of life – a part we cannot live without.