A landscape gardener’s adventures with Pink Slime Mould.
I visited a new client today in Worcestershire and started work on the unkempt flowerpots. Some were overgrown, with dried narrow leaves of last year’s Gazanias hanging over the rim, pale and brittle. Inside, the soil was bone dry. So, our client had asked us to start afresh.
Gloves on, I started the work of re-potting. Out with the old and in with the new! Wheelbarrows were filled. The compost heap grew, and the flowerpots gradually emptied. All was going well until I prised the surface of the penultimate pot – and put my thumb straight through a bright pink blancmange!
“Aha! You’ve been slimed!” my colleague gleefully declared (in the process evoking flashbacks of a 1980s children’s TV show featuring mullet-haired presenters).
I knew what it was instantly. Pink Slime Mould. But its look seems totally unnatural. I’ve heard them described as ‘bubble gum’ or, as I’ve used, ‘a blancmange,’ and its look is so alien that it’s hard not to think that there’s nothing sinister going on. And I suppose, to humans, there is something slightly sinister going on: fungi and moulds are after all extremely important to the ecosystem of any garden, breaking down dead organisms and recycling their elements to be used once again. Pink Slime Mould is believed to be harmless to living things, so I emptied the earth, dried at the top yet soaked at the bottom into sludge, (the pot hadn’t drained well at all), into the compost heap, rinsed out the pot with a jet of water, and put it aside to dry in the sun.
But caution should be taken when dealing with fungi and moulds. Gardeners in the UK were warned by doctors back in 2007 about Wood Mould (Aspergillus) that is present in rotting wood and compost. One unfortunate individual died of pneumonia like symptoms after breathing in dust, kicked up when he moved rotting tree and compost. It just shows that gardens are not without their hazards (though I have yet to meet a landscaper who demands danger money!)
Fungi and moulds are truly amazing organisms. Life on earth as we know it would be impossible without them.
Interesting Fact: The largest living organism on the planet is believed to belong to the fungi family. A specimen of the Honey Fungus breed has been discovered in Oregon, measuring a staggering 2.4 miles across, with an age estimated between 2000 to 8000 years old!