Foam efflorescence, also called “witch’s butter”, appears in Polish forests – report specialists from the State Forests. This organism is not a plant, animal or fungus – it belongs to a completely different group of living organisms. Although it looks stationary, it can move in a very original way.
In Polish forests we can find many intriguing species of plants, fungi and animals. Sometimes, however, interesting specimens belong to a completely different, less known group of organisms. One of them is foamy efflorescence (Fuligo septica), which recently appeared in the Przedborów forest district (Greater Poland Voivodeship), which was announced on social media.
Foam bloom in Polish forests and parks
The foamy efflorescence belongs to the group of slime molds – simple eukaryotic organisms, similar to protozoa rather than plants and fungi. Its body (called a slime or plasmodium) appears immobile, but in fact it can crawl in search of nutrients, using pseudopods – protrusions of the cell cytoplasm. This species is characterized by high resistance to heavy metal poisoning, especially zinc.
The foamy efflorescence feeds on whatever it encounters on its way – mainly bacteria. When it encounters another slime, it often combines with it to form a larger organism. In Poland we can find it mainly in forests, less often in old parks. It occurs from summer to late autumn, and is easiest to observe after heavy rain.
“Witch’s Butter”. Where does this name come from?
The unusual appearance of the slime mold has resulted in many superstitions associated with it. In some legends it was known as “witch’s butter”, which could spoil the milk of neighbors. The Vikings considered it to be the vomit of a troll cat – a demonic familiar belonging to a witch who drank milk from cows. Echoes of this story also appear in one of the English names of the efflorescence – dog vomit (dog vomit).
Przedborów Forest District/State Forests, elektroia.pl
Main photo source: iwciagr/Shutterstock – photo illustrative