Otherworldly beauty of fungi on show in photo competition

A trio of Cribraria slime moulds

Barry Webb/IGPOTY

PROVING that stunning, otherworldly nature is never too far away, these images are finalists in this year’s International Garden Photographer of the Year (IGPOTY) competition.

Pictured above is Barry Webb’s composite shot of a trio of Cribraria slime moulds, found next to a decaying pine log in the forests of Buckinghamshire, UK, after weeks of searching. Webb’s initial motivation to simply take pictures of slime moulds has developed into an “obsessive quest” to document as many as possible, he says, “always striving to produce images that capture their otherworldly beauty”.

Standing at mere millimetres, these organisms were once classed as multicellular fungi, but are now considered a unique type of single-celled protozoa in their own right. It is when they merge together in the joint hunt for food – sometimes in slimy masses, other times in pinhead-like clusters, as seen here – that they become known as slime moulds.

The “heads” of these Cribraria, akin to tiny watermelons, are the slime mould’s fruiting bodies that form when food is scarce, and from which spores are released to kick-start the life cycle once more.

Mycena mushroom

Jay Birmingham/IGPOTY

A Mycena mushroom sprouting from a pinecone, photographed by Jay Birmingham in Dorset, UK, is shown above. This type of fungi can be found throughout the UK and is characterised by a bell-like cap. Both images were shortlisted in the competition’s The World of Fungi category. The IGPOTY exhibition will be showing at Kew Gardens, London, until 10 March.

For more on fungi see, “Could mysterious marine fungi save us from antibiotic resistance?”

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