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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/373

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353
FUNGI.

butions, and bacteriology is hailed the latest phase of biologic science. Nevertheless, the subject is as yet only touched upon. We have simply begun to find out how to study these minutest forms, some of which may yet be hiding beyond our utmost microscopic vision.

But the most remarkable group of fungoid organisms remains yet to be considered—remarkable alike because of the innate novelty and beauty of the objects themselves, and because of the difficulty which seems ever likely to attend any effort to fix exactly their place in classification. Among English writers the organisms in question are called slime-molds; in science they have received as a group different appellations. The slime-molds are PSM V35 D373 Fruit of the lilac blight.jpgFig. 1.—Fruit of Lilac Blight, x 300. sufficiently common in all the wooded regions of the globe, although receiving less attention on account of minuteness and unobtrusiveness. With most of the species it is a plain case of "seek and thou shalt find." Some, however, are quite large, as, for instance, one of the simplest appearing often in summer flowing up between the planks of our familiar board walks, for be it understood at the outset that the slime-molds are, in one stage hi least, soft, protoplasmic bodies possessed of locomotive powers, changing form with protean incertitude, and position with nonchalance far from reassuring. The species in question appears then, in quantity, a patch of brownish, frothy-looking matter, not attractive. Scrape it away, and probably more will take its place, furnished forth from the moist, dark chambers underneath. Leave it a few hours, and you return to find a mass of purplish dust, overarched, perchance, by a porous crust of yellowish color and fragile structure. This dust is fruit, spores we may say, and we wonder what may be the destiny of spores formed in so strange a fashion. Place a few of these spores in a moist chamber, and in a short time each germinates and produces—a mycelial thread? Not at all; on the contrary, a protoplasmic particle, not to be distinguished from that other protoplasmic bit men call Amœba. When these Amoebae, produced by the germinating spores, have for a time pursued each his individual way, all under favoring circumstances reassemble, coalesce, actually blending, in most