Indeed, the first time I saw this, um, development, in the mulch a few weeks ago, that's exactly what I thought had happened.
|Dog Vomit Slime Mold, stage 1|
But then, what at the start of the day had looked like a semi-liquid pile of pale yellow sick, a few hours later had turned into a foamy, gooey, egg-yolk-yellow mass of what was clearly a living organism of some kind.
|A different pile, in stage 2|
A couple of days later, it had hardened to the consistency of a meringue cookie, and when I scraped the surface away, there was a powdery black substance inside. The first time this happened I figured it must be some sort of weird growth. After all, mushrooms regularly pop up in the mulch, so why not a bizarre type of fungus? I assumed it wasn't harmful (it isn't) and kind of forgot about it. But then it started showing up again...and again...and yet again. It was time to figure out what it was.
|It basically still looks like this, two weeks later.|
Thank God for the Internet! A quick Google search for "fungus in mulch" turned up University of Wisconsin biologist Tom Volk's Mulch fungi page, and within minutes I had identified my blob. Are you ready for this? Its official name is--appropriately--Dog Vomit Slime Mold, and it turns out it's pretty common. It's not a harmful creature, though Dr. Volk does suggest you don't eat it (yuck!!) This is a mold, not a fungus even though it resembles one, and it's Latin name is Fuligo septica. It's actually kind of fascinating, biologically speaking; it has no cell walls, and only a cell membrane to keep itself together.
Dr. Volk's advice: "There's no way to get rid of it, so I recommend you just enjoy it." Enjoying it might be a bit of a stretch at this point, but it's definitely been interesting and even entertaining. This afternoon I heard one of the neighborhood kids who was playing in the backyard say, "Eeewww, nasty! What is that?"
What do you think? Disgusting? Fascinating? Beautiful? And do let me know if you've ever "enjoyed" anything like this in your yard.