what is slime mold?

This question has confounded scientists and scientific illustrators for centuries. Though they reproduce by spores, slime molds --or myxomycetes in Latin-- are not actually fungi, which means they definitely aren't mold. And though they move like otherworldly animals, 'remembering' where they've been and always taking the best possible route to food, they aren't those either. Since the 90's they've been considered members of the Protist kingdom, along with lots of other hard-to-classify one-celled things. 


Collaria arcyrionema, one of the world's most widespread slime molds, is magnified here 40x. 

Collaria arcyrionema, one of the world's most widespread slime molds, is magnified here 40x. 

I illustrated the most comprehensive illustration of the myxomycete life cycle as of 2016.

I illustrated the most comprehensive illustration of the myxomycete life cycle as of 2016.

The slime mold life cycle is like no other. They emerge from spores to become a giant, one-celled, multi-nucleate blob called a 'plasmodium'. Hungry for bacteria, young plasmodia pulse through detritus like rotting logs and leaves. When they've had their fill, they 'fruit' into the millimeter-tall spore-filled reproductive structures seen in my illustrations.

Physarum globuliferum sometimes develops with conjoined 'peridia' (the spore-filled 'heads'.)

Physarum globuliferum sometimes develops with conjoined 'peridia' (the spore-filled 'heads'.)

Physarum bivalve's stalkless 'plasmodiocarps' cling, barnacle-like, to a eucalyptus leaf. 

Physarum bivalve's stalkless 'plasmodiocarps' cling, barnacle-like, to a eucalyptus leaf. 

A typical matchbox-sized specimen and a watercolor in progress.

A typical matchbox-sized specimen and a watercolor in progress.

Illustrations of cosmopolitan slime molds

I illustrated many of the world’s most common slime molds for Stephenson Lab at the University of Arkansas. At Dr. Steven L. Stephenson's lab, researchers study slime mold ecology (their role in the ecosystem) and potential uses of slime mold for things like bioremediation and bio-computing. Each illustration shows a species at around 40x its actual size.

In order to fund these illustrations I made a Kickstarter. This 'documentary' of a day in the life of a traveling slime mold saleslady was part of that project.

check out my 'for sale' page to buy 'slime molds of the world' posters and gorgeous greeting cards!

Trichia varia attaches delicately to spindly twigs.

Trichia varia attaches delicately to spindly twigs.

Echinoderma papillatum is characterized by silver tops and a particularly tree-like web of 'capillitium' (inner structure).

Echinoderma papillatum is characterized by silver tops and a particularly tree-like web of 'capillitium' (inner structure).

Leocarpus fragilis' hard candy-like 'peridium' turns from gold to russet with age. Its spore mass resembles oreo crumbles.

Leocarpus fragilis' hard candy-like 'peridium' turns from gold to russet with age. Its spore mass resembles oreo crumbles.

Arcyria denudata becomes fluffier and more cotton candy like as it ages.

Arcyria denudata becomes fluffier and more cotton candy like as it ages.

Diachea leucopodia likes live leaves.

Diachea leucopodia likes live leaves.

Didymium iridis occurs in 'gregarious' (closely-packed) colonies.

Didymium iridis occurs in 'gregarious' (closely-packed) colonies.

Diderma effusum is a 'nivicolous' species, growing at the edge of melting springtime snowbanks. 

Diderma effusum is a 'nivicolous' species, growing at the edge of melting springtime snowbanks.