Friday, June 06, 2014

Where the shade is deep

It's been sunny and warm this last week. Too warm for us, coming out of a cool, rainy May. We've been seeking out green places, where the trees screen out the light and heat.

We took the trail down Cougar Canyon again, after several years away. A dim, quiet trail over newly-laid pallet boards squishing into the mud under our footsteps, with the creek murmuring to itself in its stony bed, and the mosquitoes humming over our heads. I'd forgotten those mosquitoes; I'm still itchy.

In a hollow stump, blackened maybe by rot, maybe by long-forgotten fire, we found these:

A sweating shelf fungus.

The stump was dry, or barely moist back in the very centre, but the bottom of the fungus was dripping. I'm not sure if the green colour of the droplets was a reflection of all the green around us, or the colour of the fungal sap.

A large yellow slime mold, directly beneath the fungus.

This seems to be the "many-headed slime", Physarum polycephalum. The saturated yellow colour was startling in that dark hole; it almost looked like something plastic, left behind by careless visitors; but it was real, soft and damp, and living.

These slime molds crawl along, sort of like a flatworm, oozing over their food source, surrounding it, secreting enzymes to digest it before they absorb it. They're not in any hurry, but they can manage a speed of about 1 mm. per hour, or about an inch a day. When they dry out, they go dormant and wait for the next rainy day.

They don't like too much light; the spot chosen by this slime was in a hole on the northern side of a stump in an already deeply shady ravine. The sun never shines directly here.

Another slime mold, on the dark side of a mossy log under an evergreen.

Tomorrow: green, green, green.

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