Journal Article

Mycorrhizal preference promotes habitat invasion by a native Australian orchid: <i>Microtis media</i>

Jonathan R. De Long, Nigel D. Swarts, Kingsley W. Dixon and Louise M. Egerton-Warburton

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 111, issue 3, pages 409-418
Published in print March 2013 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online December 2012 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcs294
Mycorrhizal preference promotes habitat invasion by a native Australian orchid: Microtis media

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Background and Aims

Mycorrhizal specialization has been shown to limit recruitment capacity in orchids, but an increasing number of orchids are being documented as invasive or weed-like. The reasons for this proliferation were examined by investigating mycorrhizal fungi and edaphic correlates of Microtis media, an Australian terrestrial orchid that is an aggressive ecosystem and horticultural weed.

Methods

Molecular identification of fungi cultivated from M. media pelotons, symbiotic in vitro M. media seed germination assays, ex situ fungal baiting of M. media and co-occurring orchid taxa (Caladenia arenicola, Pterostylis sanguinea and Diuris magnifica) and soil physical and chemical analyses were undertaken.

Key Results

It was found that: (1) M. media associates with a broad taxonomic spectrum of mycobionts including Piriformospora indica, Sebacina vermifera, Tulasnella calospora and Ceratobasidium sp.; (2) germination efficacy of mycorrhizal isolates was greater for fungi isolated from plants in disturbed than in natural habitats; (3) a higher percentage of M. media seeds germinate than D. magnifica, P. sanguinea or C. arenicola seeds when incubated with soil from M. media roots; and (4) M. media–mycorrhizal fungal associations show an unusual breadth of habitat tolerance, especially for soil phosphorus (P) fertility.

Conclusions

The findings in M. media support the idea that invasive terrestrial orchids may associate with a diversity of fungi that are widespread and common, enhance seed germination in the host plant but not co-occurring orchid species and tolerate a range of habitats. These traits may provide the weedy orchid with a competitive advantage over co-occurring orchid species. If so, invasive orchids are likely to become more broadly distributed and increasingly colonize novel habitats.

Keywords: Terrestrial orchid; mycorrhizal fungi; disturbed habitats; south-western Australia; invasive species; Microtis media

Journal Article.  6220 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Ecology

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