Orchids and fungi -- partners for life

August 13, 2009
This is an Aphyllorchis montana orchid. Credit: Roy et al., BMC Biology

Three Thai orchids have been found to rely on a wide range of fungi to help them take carbon out of the soil instead of producing their own organic carbon. A detailed study of the relationship, published in the open access journal BMC Biology, also features stunning pictures of the plants.

Marc-André Selosse and Mélanie Roy, from the Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, Montpellier, France, studied Aphyllorchis montana, A. caudata and Cephalanthera exigua orchids with Suyanee Vessabutr and Santi Watthana from the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Thailand. These orchids have no chlorophyll and rely on fungi colonizing their roots for their carbon supply.

The , which grow on the ground in mountain forests, were collected from 10 different sampling sites in diverse parts of Thailand. The two Aphyllorchis orchids studied were found to associate with a wide range of fungi, while the Cephalanthera was much more specific.

Selosse said, "We show for the first time that certain tropical orchids associate with highly diverse soil fungi colonizing their roots; using stable isotopes, we show that they are likely to use these fungi as a carbon source". Most importantly for conservation concerns, all these fungi associate in turn with the roots of nearby green trees, where they collect carbon for the orchids.

Speaking about the results of the study, Selosse said, "Plants really interact with fungi in an unexpectedly diverse way - the impression one gains is that there is a great need for more research on biological interactions in the tropics to unravel this diversity".

More information: Two mycoheterotrophic orchids from Thailand tropical dipterocarpacean forests associate with a broad diversity of ectomycorrhizal ; Mélanie Roy, Santi Watthana, Anna Stier, Franck Richard, Suyanee Vessabutr and Marc-André Selosse; BMC Biology (in press); http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcbiol/

Source: BioMed Central (news : web)

Explore further: Fungi important in Arctic nitrogen cycle

Related Stories

Fungi important in Arctic nitrogen cycle

May 9, 2006

U.S. biologists say a new method of calculating nitrogen transfer from mushrooms to plants is proving that fungi is important in the Arctic nitrogen cycle.

Saving the wild orchids of Borneo

July 17, 2008

Borneo (Kalimantan) is the third largest island in the world. It is rich with a variety of indigenous orchid species that grow in the forests. Borneo's rain forests are also home to some extremely rare species of orchids, ...

Recommended for you

Genomes uncover life's early history

August 24, 2015

A University of Manchester scientist is part of a team which has carried out one of the biggest ever analyses of genomes on life of all forms.

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades

August 25, 2015

In early August, biologist Peter Ward returned from the South Pacific with news that he encountered an old friend, one he hadn't seen in over three decades. The University of Washington professor had seen what he considers ...

Why a mutant rice called Big Grain1 yields such big grains

August 24, 2015

(Phys.org)—Rice is one of the most important staple crops grown by humans—very possibly the most important in history. With 4.3 billion inhabitants, Asia is home to 60 percent of the world's population, so it's unsurprising ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.