AS WE WALKED up to the moor at the top end of Langsett Reservoir I spotted this fossil of Calamites in the sandstone slab of the footpath.

Calamites was a the giant horsetail of the Carboniferous Period, 300 million years ago. Whorls of narrow leaves grew from each joint in the stem. In the close up you can see what appears to be a joint at the top of the picture.

Along with giant club-mosses, the horsetails of the lush tropical forests of the Carboniferous were fossilised to form coal seams. In West Yorkshire we still derive most of our electricity from coal-fired power stations so this entry in my online nature diary has, most likely, been powered in part by solar energy stored by these giant horsetails 300 million years ago.

Slime Fungus

IN THE conifer plantation at Langsett slime fungus is on the move. About two inches long and as bright as a plastic lemon, it is making its way imperceptably up onto a stone at the edge of the track. They’re normally found amongst decaying plant material, rather the creeping along the footpath beside you.

You can see the trail of slime it has left behind, as it moves along cosuming algae, bacteria and fungi. This free-roaming blob of protoplasm, known as the plasmodium, has multiple nucleuses.

Plant or animal? A bit of both perhaps. The Slime Fungi are grouped in the phylum of Myxomycetes, in the kingdom of Protists, which also includes the algae and protozoa. The Protists are considered to be intermediate between animals and plants but possibly not related to either.

Like a fungus, the plasmodium produces spores.