Is it vomit? Is it a fungus? NO! It’s a slime mold!
Have you ever woken up, walked outside, and seen bright-yellow “vomit” on your garden?! If so, do not be alarmed. It might just be dog vomit slime mold (Fuligo septica). This neon blob is not toxic and has fascinating characteristics.
What is dog vomit slime mold?
The affectionately though perhaps inappropriately named dog vomit slime mold is neither vomit nor from a dog. Rather, it is a plastid. This yellow blob is closer to an amoeba than a fungus, plant, or animal. It starts out as a single-cell organism hiding in your soil, then combines with other cells to search for food, creating a plasmodium.
Wild, wacky, and wonderful
Contrary to what you might believe when you first see this in your garden, dog vomit slime mold is actually beneficial to the environment. It helps break down organic material and return nutrients to the soil. But wait! There’s more! The slime mold can also accumulate heavy metals and turn them into inactive forms, helping clean up the world one plasmodium at a time (Jameson, 2018). Hopefully, there is no need for that function in your own backyard.
Is it toxic? It is not harmful to humans or our four-footed friends, although its particles may irritate people with allergies or other respiratory problems. In fact, there have been reports of people eating dog vomit slime mold, aka scrambled-egg slime, in Mexico. Personally, it would not be my preferred snack.
How long will this lovely creature inhabit my yard? Well, it is incredibly difficult to get rid of. Even replacing the entirety of your mulch is only a temporary solution. Slime mold thrives on heat, moisture, and decaying matter; all of which are very common environmental processes in Florida. Do not worry, the slime mold does not stay bright yellow for very long. It eventually breaks down into a depressing, neutral colored blob until it spreads its spores. Depending on the environment, that process could happen in the span of only 48 hours. In the meantime, I hope you are able to enjoy nature’s wild, wacky, and wonderful slime mold.
Questions and inquiry
Want to make your own yellow “slime”?
- 2 tsp Borax*
- 2 cups water (as separate 1-cup quantities)*
- 1/2 cup White glue
- Zipper-style food storage bag (e.g., Ziploc)
- Yellow food coloring
* Note: Borax and water can be replaced with liquid laundry detergent
- Mix 1/2 cup of white glue and 1 cup of water in a zipper bag.
- Dissolve 2 teaspoons of Borax with a separate 1 cup of water.
- Pour the Borax-water solution into the zipper bag containing the glue-water solution
- Mix well.
- Add a couple drops of yellow food coloring to the mixture
- SQUISH (the mixture)!
Watch how a slime mold eats dinner [CREDIT: BBC, via Youtube.com]