Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Landscape - Dog Vomit Slime Mold

Landscapers may be called to identify unusual growths in landscape beds. These are often slime molds. The following is an article on the Dog Vomit slime mold.

There’s been a bumper crop of slime molds in landscape beds this year, and we’ll see them throughout the summer and into the fall. By far the species most often noticed is Fuligo septica, a.k.a. the “dog vomit” slime mold. Despite the unpleasant name, it is completely harmless to humans, animals and plants.

Slime molds spend most of their lives as amoeboid cells or inconspicuous plasmodia that creep slowly through soil, leaf litter, mulch, etc. A plasmodium feeds by engulfing bacteria, spores, and bits of organic matter. It eventually moves out to a more exposed location on top of mulch, pine straw, a stump, a low-growing plant, or even the foundation of a building. There it stops moving and transforms into a fruiting (spore-producing) body. This is when Fuligo septica first gets noticed as a bright yellow, frothy mass (image by M. J. Munster) a few inches to up to a foot in diameter. It quickly fades to a dull orange (image by M. J. Munster) and then a light tan as its surface dries to a crust (image by M. J. Munster). After a few days it breaks apart to release its dark-colored spores, which blow away to start the life cycle anew. Within a week or two, all that’s left is a dusting of leftover spores and bits of gray or yellowish crust.

Control measures for Fuligo septica are neither effective nor necessary. If considered intolerably unsightly, they can be removed by hand or washed off with a hose, but there's a good chance that new ones will pop up at a later date, though probably not next year, unless new mulch is applied.

Reprinted from the North Carolina Pest News, June 20, 2008 edition.


Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

I have this slime mold growing outside of the holes in my compost bin. Does this mean that my compost isn't good? If I put this compost in my flower beds am I at risk of introducing slime mold to those plants?

Anonymous said...

I think I got this from some compost! I noticed it in my garden the other afternoon, then again yesterday morning. It's had me in a panic because I was afraid it was going to envelop my plants and ruin my hard work. With any luck we'll have a few nice hot, dry days and this mess can go away again. Harmless or not, it is rather off-putting, especially when you find it hiding under a plant unexpectedly.

Thank you for having an explanation available. No one I know had ever seen such a thing, and I was accusing the birds of having digestive problems all over my garden.