Bad Beaver Farm
Ellsworth, Maine 04605
Dr. Tanya Latty, Entomologist
University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW, Australia
March 7, 2021
Dear Dr. Latty,
I have just finished watching the PBS special on Slime Molds in which your work was featured and I am compelled to tell you this long-ago story. I sort of can’t believe this is actually happening right now.
Many years ago, I had a lovely herb garden and I painted a Rune with white paint on one of the paving stones (the Rune signified abundance or something like that, I can’t remember now). Anyway, after a while I noticed that something—white—had grown alongside the Rune imitating the pattern (see photo enclosed, the date on the back of the photo says May 1997). I couldn’t believe it…it was very obvious to me that it was trying to replicate the design.
I called my old, beloved Botany Professor, Dr. Michael Wirth (may he Rest in Peace) to show him my discovery. He came to my garden and looked a tad disturbed to see the mimicry. He scraped at it and looked at it with a hand lens. He said it was definitely a slime mold. Then he kind of sighed. I think he knew what was coming next.
I said, “Michael, this slime mold is obviously trying to recreate the pattern of the Rune!”
At which point he adopted the most condescending attitude (and I mean I respected him dearly but he was clearly out of his league with this one), he said, “But Carol, you know that’s impossible. Slime molds don’t have a brain.”
“But COME ON! Look at this pattern, how can this be coincidental?”
To which he did a proverbial pat on the head, “Carol, you know this is a single cell organism. Slime molds don’t even have a nervous system.”
“Well, maybe they have photo receptors or something?”
It went on for a while like this until he shook his head and went home.
Herb Garden Path, Hopkinton, NH ~ May 1997
So, I have kept this photo for 24 years. You can imagine my sheer delight reading the new theories about Slime Molds and intelligence and the PBS documentary was the icing on the cake. It’s just all so fascinating and humbling. Thank you for all you do, Dr. Latty, keep kicking butt.
Carol Leonard (Retired Midwife, Naturalist and author of Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart, A Midwife’s Saga, Bad Beaver Publishing, 2010)