Despite the cold and windy day, 26 members from both the Macnamara Field Naturalists’ Club and the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club met at the Pakenham 5-Span Bridge; then off we went to Old Lonesome (the Spicer Property) on Mount Pakenham.
The primary object of our search were Myxomycetes, commonly called slime moulds. These fungal-like motile organisms are very small so we armed ourselves with our hand lenses and found all kinds of micro fungi – like Wolf’s Milk Slime Mold, Black Jelly Roll, Orange Jelly, Dead Man’s Fingers, Yellow Fairy Cups, Scrambled Egg Slime and something that looked like Carnival Candy Slime. It was in its protoplasm stage and could not be definitively identified. George White explained which “Myxos” that we had found and he handed out a paper which explained the life cycle of a cellular slime mold. One of the highlights of the trips was the discovery of a partial fruiting body of the puffball Calvatia cyathiformis. This has been called “rare” in some of the scientific literature but it’s more likely that its collectors that are rare while the fungus is more common than is perceived. The specimen is now headed to the National Mycological Herbarium in Ottawa thanks to the keen eye of one of the participants.
Did you know that there are several hundred slime molds in North America and over 600 in the world? They prefer wet decayed logs, leaves, lawn grass, living plant stems, old discarded mattresses and cotton clothing. They are common in the Spring and Fall when there is high precipitation with moderate temperatures. The slime mold moves by expansion and contraction until it fruits. Cool eh? Although they are small they are both diverse and intricate and can supply endless fascination to anyone who wants to pursue them.
By the end of the outing, many of the participants were amazed at how much biodiversity our forest holds. This year the fall mushrooms have been delayed by warm weather and lack of precipitation but the best may be yet to come.
Suzanne Monnon (with the aid of George White)