An unusual fungus

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I found this strange fungus called Stemonitis splendens growing on a rotting sweet gum stump. This fungus goes through its whole life span in about one day. Beginning as a small white slimy blotch on dead wood, it progresses quickly to small brown hairlike stems covered in brown spores.

Growing in small clusters, these tiny stems grow no taller than an inch and appear sort of like thick dirty brown hair from a short haired animal ... or maybe strands of hair dipped in thick brown paint.

Considered to be a "slime mold" in its early stages of growth, this fungus was not slimy at the time I photographed it. I gently touched one of the stems with the petiole (stem) of a dead leaf and watched small spores escape into the air. You may also be able to see in the photo some of the spores which have fallen onto the stump near the Stemonitis splendens.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the Painted Wren Gallery.

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