Monday, May 22, 2006

Wolf's milk

The fungus-like objects in the picture are young fruit bodies of the slime-mould Lycogala terrestre, often known as wolf's milk. They appear every spring on the birch log that divides the square metre in half.

The term 'wolf's milk' is thought to be due to the opaque, pinkish-orange droplets that often emerge from the fruits and it has been suggested that, appearing in rows as they do, they have some resemblance to a she-wolf's teats. The name Lycogala, which means 'wolf's milk' was coined in the 18th century by Michel Adanson, a French botanist of Scottish ancestry. I have not, however, been able to locate his explanation for the name and, since he left a vast corpus of many volumes of manuscript, I think I might let the matter rest there.

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