With all the moisture we’ve had it’s likely that many gardeners will encounter the harmless slime mold, Fuligo septic, common in Western North Carolina, and affectionately referred to as “dog vomit”. This flashy yellow, orange, or cream frothy blob typically occurs in the summer after periods of dry weather followed by rain.
From a scientific perspective, slim molds are like nothing else on earth. They are myxomycetes (myxos), of the kingdom protoctista, the least understood of the five kingdoms of life, the others being animals, plants, fungi and bacteria. There are over 700 different types of slime molds which vary in shape, structure, and color and found on wood chip mulches, lawns, garden beds, plants and even creeping up foundation walls.
Slime molds’ life cycle generally has two phases. They begin as microscopic spore that can remain dormant in the soil for years waiting for the right conditions to germinate and release small mobile cells. Once free the cells search for a similar cell to join and begin the creation of the second phase, the shapeless blob called a plasmodium. The plasmodium which can be clear, khaki, pink, yellow, orange or red moves across the ground about a half inch per hour consuming bacteria, fungi and organic matter generally found in decaying wood mulch. After a couple of days the organism generally dries out turning tan and crusty and disintegrates.
Slime molds that live on turf in WNC are often visible as a white powder. Although they look very different from their mulch-loving cousin, they share a similar lifestyle.
As for eliminating slime molds they are usually considered beneficial organisms, decomposing and recycling dead organic matter. The visual phase typically disappears after 2 to 3 days but if it’s offensive the growth can be removed with a rake.
By Master Gardener Terry Scholl