Dog Vomit Slime Mold in Wood Mulch

Dog vomit slime mold is an interesting occurrence in the garden and in the wild. A yellowish blob seems to appear almost overnight that looks very much like an animal has thrown-up in the yard. The cause of this blob is actually a slime mold, Fuligo septica. Fuligo septica are eukaryotic organisms from the Protista kingdom. These decomposers feed on the fungi, mold and bacteria in your garden. They are pretty much harmless to animals, people and plants. They thrive in warm, moist, shady environments with plenty of decaying organic matter, like wood mulches, compost piles, leaf litter and rotting logs. Occasionally it may even appear in the lawn.

Identification and Life Cycle of Dog Vomit Slime Mold

While there are several kinds of slim mold, dog vomit slime mold (Fuligo septica) has the characteristic yellow to pale yellow or off white colouring. The blobs typically measure about 20cm (8″) wide and are about 3cm (1″) in height, but they can grow up to 60cm (2′). They appear as a thickened, cushion-like, irregularly shaped blob. One would liken their appearance to that of a dog’s vomit, thus its name; or to scrambled eggs, another common name for it.

The life cycle of Dog Vomit Slime Mold:

Dog vomit slime mold is a single celled organism capable of movement. Each of the individual cells are flagellated (have a whip like appendage) that enables them to move about like an amoeba. When food is scarce, they release a chemical that serves to attract other slime mold cells. The more of them that gather the stronger the chemical signal, creating a swarm. They fuse together and move about as one organism in search of food. The term for this phase is “plasmodium”. The plasmodium is transparent and whitish in color. Eventually they stop feeding and form their reproductive structure called an aethalium. The aethalium is a cushion-like, irregularly shaped blob. This spore filled structure turns to the characteristic yellowish colour. This structure is short lived and as it begins drying out it become brown and crusty. Once dry spores are released, and the cycle begins again. The spores can survive for years in the soil.

Photo credits: photo taken by the author.

References and reading resources:

Hodgson L., (2020). Dog Vomit Slime Mold: A Surprising Garden Visitor. https://laidbackgardener.blog/2020/07/11/dog-vomit-slime-mold-a-surprising-garden-visitor/

University of California Museum of Paleontology. Berkeley, (n.d.). Introduction to the “Slime Molds”. https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/protista/slimemolds.html

Utah State University, (n.d.). The Blob Slim Molds. Intermountain Herbarium. Department of Biology. https://herbarium.usu.edu/fun-with-fungi/slime-molds

Vanderlinden C., (Updated on 03/24/22). How to Grow and Care for Dog Vomit Slime Mold. https://www.thespruce.com/identifying-and-controlling-dog-vomit-fungus-2539510

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