Friday, 4 November 2011

Slime Moulds at Loggerheads

Last Sunday I was very privileged to meet up with Bruce Ing the expert on slime moulds. In an interview for the Radio Wales Country Focus programme (Sunday 6th November 07:00), he explained that they were neither slimy nor moulds. During the walk around Loggerheads Country Park, appropriately near Mold, Bruce found several species and explained the lifecycle of these beautiful organisms. Although they share similar characteristics to fungi they are very different and in a class of their own.

Now is a good time of year to see them as they emerge to spore – some are tiny and difficult to spot although Brefeldia maxima (they don’t have English or Welsh names) is quite easy. It’s the largest of the species and has been seen at Loggerheads up to a square metre in size looking like a bucket of cold porridge eventually turning to a pile of black soot.  

Typically they are found on decaying wood, but it’s not the slime moulds that cause the wood to rot, that’s the bacteria which they feed on.

I was truly amazed with the wondrous specimens, or pyramids of amoebas, which we saw through a hand lens and intrigued by their bizarre lifecycle. For the sake of the interview I had to ask the ‘so what’ question. Bruce was well rehearsed in his response, with benefits for both agriculture and medicine, but I particularly liked its potential for treating ulcerous conditions caused by a bacteria which can’t be sorted by current anti-biotics. ‘Maybe we can develop a slime mould that will eat the bacteria. It’s difficult to develop immunity from something that’s eating you. The challenge will be making sure it doesn’t go on to eat the patient.’
A type of Physarum

If you want to learn more about the subject read Bruce's article in Natur Cymru due out December 2011. His book "The Myxomycetes of Britian and Ireland - An Identification Handbook" is out of print but the good news is that it is being republished in 2012 with some additional content.


  1. Information on Bruce’s latest book on slime moulds - Biodiversity in the North West: The Slime Moulds of Cheshire - is available through the University of Chester Press. Visit the University of Chester's website for details.

  2. Bruce is appearing with slime moulds on a BBC4 programme called Afterlife at 9 pm on Tuesday 6 December. Should be very interesting.