The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 28, 2002


Biodiversity Corner Chocolate tube slime mold

Name: Chocolate Tube Slime Mold or Stemonitis axifera. It is also sometimes called the Pipe-cleaner Slime.

When and where seen: In the woods at the Cranberry Bog on June 1, in my backyard on School Street on June 17. Can be seen growing on logs in the woods all through the summer. Last year I found some late in August.

Distinguishing characteristics: Dense clusters of narrow chocolate-brown cylindrical forms looking like little plugs suitable for hair transplants. These are the sporangia or fruiting bodies; they are uncommonly tall - among slime molds. Other sporangia are only a few millimeters tall but these can reach more than 2 centimeters. Each sporangium is on a short, shiny, black stalk.

Life of a Slime Mold: Slime molds spend much of their lives hidden from view inside rotted logs or buried in leaf litter. The slimy protoplasm, called a plasmodium, will often move after heavy rain to a place suitable for spore dispersal. This method of locomotion by a series of expansions and contractions is 'protoplasmic streaming'. Travel generally occurs at night when the risk of drying up is lower. The plasmodium of the Chocolate Tube Slime Mold, when ready to fruit, separates into pieces and each piece becomes a 'tube'. Other slime molds produce quite different fruiting bodies, the shape, color and size of which are needed for identification of the species since the plasmodia can be much alike. The transformation from plasmodium to fruiting body to disintegration can occur in as little as 24 hours. Chocolate Tube Slime Molds take about a week to disperse their spores and disappear.

Slime Mold classification: Slime molds defy our biological classification system. They are like animals with spores. They can move. They feed by engulfing organic particles in their path, digesting what they can and ejecting the rest. Don't get alarmed — they travel slowly and go only a few yards — definitely not up for the Old Home Day parade. While neither fungi nor animal, they are classified in the Fungi kingdom in a division of their own called Myxomycota. There are about five hundred known species.

References: George Barron, Mushrooms of Northeast North America

Submissions for the Biodiversity Corner are encouraged from everyone. You can write the column yourself or tell me what you saw and I will write it. The only requirements are that the organism exists in the wild and was seen in Carlisle. Send a note to Kay Fairweather at 392 School St, Carlisle MA 01741 or to

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito