slime mould

3 April 2014
After a brief shower yesterday evening (a sudden fall of heavy wet drops – if only they could have fallen 10 minutes later and let me finish my mowing) we heard the welcome sound of the blue wrens. They’ve been absent from the garden for weeks, but here they are, quick flitting through the heavy leaves of zucchini and pumpkin. One firetail joins them, assiduously crunching through seeds of grass, parsley, basil. The wrens are tiny, the same body-shape and colour as mice, the same swift anxious movements, even the same squeaks. They patrol the garden in their haphazard manner, flying into deeper cover at an insistent triple call that comes from somewhere in the fennel, hovering for swift forays to the front where the soil is more exposed and they peck and jump. They don’t lord it over the garden like the blue wrens in summer, who had strutted and postured, parading on the bean poles with loud commanding songs. They’re meek and mild, new baby hatchlings.
This morning the garden’s wonder is slime mould. One is puffball shaped, climbing a stake, while the other sprawls over a dandelion. Little tendrils appear to connect them, or show that they are the one … the one what? Creature? Plant? Are they one organism, or a collection?
They start the day a vibrant fluorescent yellow, but have now darkened to a peachy colour. Their powdery surface makes them look toxic, but various helpful websites tell us that they’re harmless, assisting in decomposition. They’re not fungi, but they use spores to reproduce. They can take many different forms – last time we had some it was like spilled paint tipped vibrantly over the soil. It appears that today’s are in their fruiting form. One type is attractively named the ‘dog vomit’ slime mould. Don’t blame the dog.