Dog Vomit Slime Mold

With no warning, it appeared in our back yard one day, a pile of yellow slimy-looking foam. Similar to what you would find after your dog was sick, except we had no dog. A quick search on the internet gave us the answer, this unappetizing thing is called Dog Vomit Slime Mold. If you want to be picky, the scientific name is Fuligo septica, but the common name is so much more appropriate.

Fuligo septica is one of the most common of more than 700 species of slime molds. When we see it, it is  a creeping mass called the plasmodium. This is basically one huge cell, a membrane filled with many nuclei. Moving very slowly, like an amoeba, it creeps around feeding itself. Dog Vomit Slime Mold consumes fungi and bacteria found on decaying plant matter. This is actually good for your garden, a necessary part of the cycle of life. Remember the movie, The Blob? The monster in the movie was based on the plasmodium phase of a slime mold.

Fuligo septica appears in locations that are warm and wet and contain decaying plant material. Wood mulch is a favorite, along with trees, plants and other spots that are watered regularly, though it frequently is found in the forest.  Seeming to appear overnight, it is most often seen in spring and summer. Dog Vomit Slime Mold is usually from 6 inches to 2 feet in diameter when first visible, and bright yellow in color.

Once the slime mold stops moving, it is in a spore bearing stage, called an aethalium. As it ages, over one or more days, the color becomes duller orange and the mass hardens, sometimes looking like peanut butter, then cherry cobbler. Finally, it is just a brownish, dried out puddle. If you happen to disturb it at this point, you’ll see a what looks like dust. This dust is millions of spores being released into the air, to grow in other locations. Even without help from humans, the spores will eventually be blown away by the wind.

The good news is that Dog Vomit Slime Mold is totally harmless to plants, pets and humans. It’s also edible, and is cooked and eaten in Mexico in a manner similar to scrambled eggs. This dish is called Caca de Luna, in case you want to look up the recipe. The bad news is that there is no guaranteed way to keep Dog Vomit Slime Mold from visiting your yard. The spores are everywhere, just waiting for the right conditions. You can try to prevent the ideal growing condition by raking your mulch to help it dry. When the slime mold does appear, you can physically remove it to a plastic bag and discard it. Or you can blast it with a hose, but remember you are just spreading the spores more widely. The best solution is time. Wait a few days and it will go away by itself.

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2 Responses to “Dog Vomit Slime Mold”

  1. Kem Says:

    Never took Spanish, but does “caca de luna” translate to moon crap????? Interesting! Even at breakfast time. 🙂

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