Breathe
Leopard Slug ( Limax maximus ) on Garden Shovel

Leopard Slug (Limax maximus) on Garden Shovel

When I breathe upon the landscape,
Flowers spring up o’er all the meadows
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "The Song of Hiawatha," (1855)

A shovel lay in the grass, and when I bent to pick it up a leopard slug was upon it. Measuring six to seven-inches in length, it lived up to its Latin name, biggest slug.

As our slugs do not usually venture into the daylight, I went inside to fetch my camera and when I returned the slug was already on the move. Stretched around the shaft of the shovel, the slug’s breathing pore was more obvious than usual; the pore, called a pneumostome, allows the slug to breathe using its single lung.

I decided to read a bit more about the leopard slug, as they are in abundance on our property. I was delighted (and surprised!) to learn the startlingly large, slimy creature is a help - not a hindrance - to our plants. Go figure? I ignorantly thought all slugs and snails were bad for plants. It turns out…leopard slugs not only eat other slugs (those which may prove a danger to our flora) but by eating dead and decomposing plants they release organic nutrients into the soil. I knew I liked them for some silly reason. ♥

Jessica Allen explores the fields and forests of Pennsylvania with her artist-husband, Michael Allen, and their son, Benjamin. She shares her observations through words and pictures of everyday magic and beauty she sees in her world.