Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Symbiotic Relationship between Orchids and Fungus

Comment on: Orchids Are as Finicky as the Fungi That Nourish Them


vincenzi and McCormick, I have numerous orchids growing on my Cedar tree here in Southern California. For the heck of it I sowed some orchid seeds on my tree. Much to my surprise, some time later I noticed these tiny green blobs growing directly on the bare bark on the sunny side of the tree. What was interesting was that all of the seedlings germinated within 1/2" of the roots of the orchids that had already been growing on the tree.

It stands to reason that the seeds didn't germinate farther away from the orchid roots simply because the fungus isn't capable of surviving farther away from the orchid roots. Therefore, the orchid roots facilitate fungus colonization.

More orchid roots means more fungus...and more fungus means more spore...and more spore increases the chances that some spore will land on suitable microhabitats on nearby trees...which increases the chances that the orchid seeds will germinate on nearby trees.

Imagine hurling a spaceship filled with humans through space in a random direction. What are the chances that the spaceship will hit a habitable planet? Pretty slim. You can greatly increase the chances by launching a billion terraforming drones in the same general direction before you hurl the humans.

Orchids are so successful because they are good at playing the numbers game. They help launch gazillions and gazillions of spore into space...and then send billions and billions of seeds in the same general direction.

If we want to help ensure the continued success of orchids...it would behoove us to think outside the pot.


See also: We Need More Orchid Celebrities

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