Ericoid Mycorrhizae

Definition - What does Ericoid Mycorrhizae mean?

Ericoid mycorrhizae are terms that describe a mutualistic symbiosis relationship that formed approximately 140 million years ago between the Ericaceae plant family and certain fungi. The union is highly beneficial for both parties and has enabled each to flourish in areas where few other forms of life can exist.

The Ericaceae family of plants is comprised of heathland plants such as bilberry, heath, and heater. Additional members of the Ericaceae plant family include cranberry, blueberry, and huckleberry plants, as well as rhododendron (azaleas).

Heathlands dominate and flourish in barren, acidic, nutrient-poor locations such as bogs and boreal forests. In such regions, the Ericaceae plant family has formed a unique relationship with the fungi; the two create and exchange the required nutrients that each need to survive in such inhospitable parts of the world.


MaximumYield explains Ericoid Mycorrhizae

Within the root hairs of the the Ericaceae plant family live colonies of Ericoid mycorrhizal fungi. The fungi send out root-like coils that penetrate the cortical cells of the plant’s root without entering the plant’s cell plasma membrane.

At the site of the coil, the plant and fungi exchange valuable nutrients that are required for both to survive and flourish. The plant uses its ability to photosynthesis sunlight into carbohydrates that the fungi requires to live and multiply. The fungi have the ability to access organic nutrients such as nitrogen in the soil. The nutrients are then passed to the plant by the fungi during the exchange via the fungi’s coils.

Without the relationship between the Ericaceae plants and the fungi, neither could live; however, when they work together tthey flourish in regions of the world where very few other things survive.

The term mycorrhizae describes the symbiotic relationship between specialized soil fungi and the roots of the majority of plants on Earth in which these fungi inhabit. There are three main types of mycorrhizae/mycorrhizal fungi: Ectomycorrhizae, Endomycorrhizae (arbuscular mycorrhizae), and Ericoid mycorrhizae. Of these types, it is the Endomycorrhizae that are found in the root zones of most crop plants, and are thus the ones most hobby growers ought to be familiar with; whereas Ericoid mycorrhizae aren't common.

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