Linda Grashoff's Photography Adventures

The Iron Bacteria of August—2

August 19, 2014

The way you know that this is a Leptothrix discophora film and not an oil spill is that the film is shattered into pieces where it has been disturbed. Oil slicks flow right back together. The second image is a closer crop of the first.

08102014 Schoepfle Garden-73


08102014 Schoepfle Garden-73-2

10 responses

  1. Finally the ‘penny has dropped’ as we say here in the UK. I saw these colours on a track on wet moorland – almost a bog – a few years ago. I thought it must be some oil residues left by a farmer’s tractor or something similar. I’m sure I was wrong now. I guess it was iron bacteria. Somewhere I have an image of it…


    August 19, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    • Hi, Andy. Bogs are where you are likely to find the iron bacteria. In fact, centuries ago, people mined bogs for iron, and that iron (poor quality by modern standards) was called “bog iron.” A Google search on “bog iron” gets you many interesting links, including one to a YouTube video shot in England. Too bad the video doesn’t show any Leptothrix discophora. However, the Wikipedia site mentions Leptothrix. I’d love to see the image of what you found. I often find L. discophora in soggy areas where an animal or human has indented the ground. I think the indentation keeps the bacteria corralled in still water; the bacteria seem to proliferate when walled in and sitting on quiet water.


      August 19, 2014 at 1:47 PM

  2. Found the image that I was referring to and here is a link to it: That should enable you to view it I hope. It’s mainly an inky blue but there are traces of multi-colour just to the left of the centre of the image. What do you think, Linda?


    August 19, 2014 at 3:05 PM

    • Yes, indeed, Andy! That is the biofilm of Leptothrix discophora! What a thrill! I know that it exists all over the world; I’ve even photographed it in Tokyo, but this is the first time I’ve seen English L. discophora.


      August 19, 2014 at 3:15 PM

      • Mystery solved then! This was five years ago in Snowdonia, N Wales. I’ll keep looking when I’m back up there next


        August 19, 2014 at 5:00 PM

  3. I’m planning a trip to a boggy area in the spring (for geese migration) and will keep an eye out for this type of coloration. If I find any I hope to get some shots almost as nice as these.


    August 19, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    • Oh, yes, I hope you find it. It’s rather elusive, so don’t be too awfully surprised if you don’t see it. If you see something orangish, like rust, that’s the iron oxide that Leptothrix discophora‘s cousins have made. Circle around the orange stuff until you are facing the sun. Probably there is some L. discophora on top of the water on top of the iron oxide. Facing the sun is when the film will be most apparent. Also, be there in the morning, when the sun hits at an angle. And show me what you get! Best of luck.


      August 19, 2014 at 3:23 PM

  4. Just found a bloom on Whitson River…thought it was a spill but now I know it’s bacteria. How fascinating! Thanks for sharing Linda!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 4, 2016 at 1:17 PM

    • How exciting! I hope it was a gorgeously colorful one. Here’s something interesting: I Googled Whitson River and see that it is a tributary of an Ontario river called the Vermilion River, spelled just like the Ohio Vermilion River. The Ohio Vermilion River is where I’ve seen most of my iron bacteria. Perhaps your Vermilion River is named for the presence of red clay along its banks, as is, so they say, the Ohio Vermilion River. The clay is colored red, of course, from the iron that the iron bacteria aggregates from the iron in the river water. If you want to know a little more, I suggest checking out the links at You can see more photographs of the iron bacteria at that site, too. Thank you for writing, Colette!


      October 4, 2016 at 1:42 PM

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