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Slime Mold

Slime Mold, a Unique Infestation Sweeping the Appalachian


The types of mold found in Chattanooga, Tennessee that I have mentioned up to this point, can be found where moist conditions happen in general. However, there is a special type of genus, possibly even phylum, that specifically resides in the Appalachian area. Get ready to hear about a more unique problem that can surface in your basement, attic, or crawlspace, slime mold.

Good Old Rocky Top

The Southern Appalachian Mountains is home to a lot of things, spruce trees, squirrels, black bears, and even wild turkeys. However, there are certain parts of the Smokies that remain untouched, most likely due to conservation efforts of the National Parks and the mountains making access harder to certain places. Either way, this gives the local wildlife a chance to remain undisturbed by the general human population. And when they are undisturbed they flourish and evolve.

Slime mold can be found all over the mountain range and sometimes worm their way in areas surrounding the mountain range. The Smokies span across multiple landmarks and major cities, such as Asheville, North Carolina, Roanoke, Virginia, and yes, Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is also one of the more famous conservation areas in North America, along with Yellowstone park, sitting on almost the opposite end of the United States.

It was thanks to the efforts of Enos Mills, an American naturalist, who lobbied, lectured and published books on the behalf of the conservation of nature in the early 1900’s. In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed documentation preserving it as the 10th National Park.


A Fungus Among Us?

But enough about the setting, what’s up with slime mold? Is it a fungus? Is it an animal? Is it a plant? It turns out it is both and none of those slime moldthings.

Taxonomy is a tricky process because before something is declared an animal, vegetable or mineral, there are several characteristics that scientists must look out for before naming something as part of a category. How it is formed, how it reproduces, how it behaves, are all characteristics are taken into consideration before something is classified. Yet, slime mold is certainly in a Kingdom of its own.

It is a single cellular organism, but it can merge into a multicellular organism for convenience. It feeds on decomposing plants but it avoids bright areas and protects itself from the possibility of dryness by forming a dry dormant state that lasts for up to 75 years. It can also travel quickly by copying its own DNA while changing it to suit what the entire group of cells need at the time.

It is also demonstrates amazing intelligence.  Enough to find the shortest path in a maze and replicate the Tokyo railway system. And it did it without a functioning brain or nervous system. That is amazing and almost terrifying compared to what other plants, fungi or animals can do.

Since slime molds defy all sorts of logic or rules that would classify it as a fungus or an animal, it has been given its own kingdom, Plasmodia.


Types of Slime Mold in Chattanooga, Tennesee

Slime mold, chattanooga Licea sambucina- It is a rare species that was thought to have only existed on the British Isles. Its fruit looks like a “lilliputian orange’.

Barbeyella minutissima- This rare species looks like a small black ball balanced perfectly on a stick. It is found on rotten and barkless deadwood in forests that have high altitudes for a cool, moist environment. It is also likely a species that reproduces by airborne spores.

Hemitrichia calyculata- These resemble Barbeyella, but are a bright orange color with a stalk that is only 1-2mm long. Insect larvae find this species of slime mold delicious.

Physarum polycephalum- Also known as the “many-headed slime” it lives on decaying leaves and logs. This is the specific species of slime mold that wowed scientists with its situational awareness.

Lycogala epidendrum- This is called Wolf’s Milk Slime and it pops up in little pink puffballs. When they get a decent breeding ground, more of these little balls pop up, looking like a bunch of beads spilled in the woods. In spite of its name, it is not considered edible.


Is Slime Mold Helpful or Harmful?


Surprisingly enough, outside of biologists and the occasional railway construction worker in Hokkaido, these protozoa creatures are largely ignored by the general populace. This is because they aren’t seen as beneficial or harmful to humans so it would be a blip on the public radar.

At it’s best, it can help with the natural decomposition that comes with damage in forests, provided they live in a moist and dark area. At worst, it is a pest that can take up space in your air conditioning unit or cellar if moisture is trapped in the dark.

However, slime mold is much easier to remove in the home. All you have to do is increase the heat, and keep the area dry. The mold will shrivel into its hibernation state and it can be scraped away. It won’t grow back

Unless it isn’t slime mold but regular mold.


If you have a mold problem and live in the Chattanooga, Tennesee area, call Allied Crawlspace. We provide quality service and know what we are doing!


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