Otherworldly beauty of fungi on show in photo competition

A trio of Cribraria slime molds

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.

The photo above shows the composite photo taken by Barry Webb of a trio of Cribraire slime mold, found next to a rotting pine log in the forests of Buckinghamshire, UK, after weeks of searching. Webb's initial motivation to simply take photos of slime molds evolved into an “obsessive quest” to document as many of them as possible, he says, “always striving to produce images that capture their otherworldly beauty.” .

Measuring just a few millimeters, these organisms were once classified as multicellular fungi, but are now considered a unique type of unicellular protozoa in their own right. It is when they coalesce in the common hunt for food – sometimes in slimy masses, other times in pinhead-like groups, as seen here – that they become known as molds viscous.

The “heads” of these CribraireSimilar to tiny watermelons, are the fruiting bodies of slime mold that form when food is scarce and from which spores are released to restart the life cycle.

Mycenae mushroom

Jay Birmingham/IGPOTY

A Mycenae A mushroom growing from a pine cone, photographed by Jay Birmingham in Dorset, UK, is pictured above. This type of mushroom can be found throughout the UK and is characterized by a bell-shaped cap. Both images were selected in the World of Mushrooms category of the competition. THE IGPOTY exhibition will be on display at Kew Gardens, London, until March 10.

The subjects:

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