Mycorrhizal Fungi

Research Issue

[photo:] Boletus floridanusMycorrhizal fungi grow along tree roots and play critically important roles in maintaining tree health in forests and urban areas throughout the world. They help trees obtain nutrients and water more efficiently. The fruiting bodies of truffles and similar ectomycorrhizal fungi are an important source of food for small mammals. Many kinds of trees including pines, spruces, firs, oaks, chestnuts, beech and aspen are strongly dependent on their mycorrhizal fungal partners.

Some mycorrhizal fungi have limited host ranges but are essential to their host trees. Therefore, knowledge of fungal species and their host ranges is important for reforestation, afforestation, and reintroduction of endangered tree species such as the American chestnut. Mycorrhizal fungi are sensitive to different growing conditions and types of soils, so knowledge of their environmental ranges is useful for matching tree seedlings to the area where they will be planted. Introduced mycorrhizal fungi and climate change are likely to cause changes in the distributions of native mycorrhizal fungi.

Our Research

At the Center for Forest Mycology Research (CFMR), researchers are clarifying genetic relationships and developing identification tools for many different kinds of mycorrhizal fungi. Projects include:

  • Identification and classification of Boletes. Boletes have fleshy mushroom-like fruiting bodies with pores instead of gills below their cap. Some highly prized species are edible and are collected for consumption or sale.
  • Identification, classification, distribution and ecology of truffles and truffle-like fungi. Truffles are usually spread by small mammals.
  • Studying mycorrhizal fungi associated with remaining populations of American chestnut, which may be critical for restoring this iconic species.
  • Studying mycorrhizal fungi that are helpful for trees that are planted in damaged, harsh or degraded environments.
  • Studying fungi that increase soil fertility and control nutrient availability to trees.

Expected Outcomes

These studies will improve our understanding of how to match mycorrhizal fungal partners with tree seedlings being planted in both forested and non-forested areas. They will also aid reintroduction and recovery efforts for endangered tree species like the American chestnut. Important products from these studies include identification keys, photographs and species descriptions for use by mycologists, plant pathologists, forest managers, mushroom clubs and the public. DNA sequences based on vouchered fungal specimens are made available to the research community through online databases like GenBank.

Research Results

Castellano, Michael A.; Stephens, Ryan B. 2017. Elaphomyces species (Elasphomycetaceae, Eurotiales) from Bartlett Experimental Forest, New Hampshire, USA. IMA Fungus. 8(1): 49-63. https://doi.org/10.5598/imafungus.2017.08.01.04

Anderlechi-Barbosa, Silva; Ovrebo, Clark L.; Ortiz-Santana, Beatriz; Sá, Mariana, C.A.; Sulzbacher, Marcelo A.; Roy, Melanie; Wartchow, Felipe. 2016. Tylopilus aquarius, comb. et stat. nov., and its new variety from Brazil. Sydowia 69:115-122.

Ortiz-Santana, Beatriz; Bessette, Alan E.; McConnell, Owen L. 2016. Boletus durhamensis sp. nov. from North Carolina. Mycotaxon 131:703-715.

Baroni, Timothy J.; Cifuentes, Joaquin; Ortiz-Santana, Beatriz; Capello, Silvia. 2015. A new species of Phlebopus (Boletales, Basidiomycota) from Mexico. North American Fungi 10(7):1-13.

Grupe, Arthur C.; Baker, Anthony D.; Uehling, Jessie K.; Smith, Matthew E.; Baroni, Timothy J.; Lodge, D. Jean; Henkel, Terry W. 2015. Sarcodon in the Neotropics I: new species from Guyana, Puerto Rico and Belize. Mycologia 107(3):591-606.

Li, Yan-Chun; Ortiz-Santana, Beatriz; Zeng, Nian-Kai; Feng, Bang; Yang, Zhu L. 2014. Molecular phylogeny and taxonomy of the genus Veloporphyrellus. Mycologia 106(2):291-306.

Lodge, D. Jean; Padamsee, Mahajabeen; Matheny, P. Brandon; +26, Lindner, Daniel L.; Ortiz-Santana, Beatriz; Haight, John; +4. 2013. Molecular phylogeny, morphology, pigment chemistry and ecology in Hygrophoraceae (Agaricales). Fungal Diversity 64(1):1-99.

Smith, Matthew E.; Schell, Karlee J.; Castellano, Michael A.; Trappe, Matthew J.; Trappe, James M. 2013. The enigmatic truffle Fevansia aurantiaca is an ectomycorrhizal member of the Albatrellus lineage. Mycorrhiza 23(8):663-668.

Lindner, Daniel L.; Banik, Mark T. 2009. Effects of cloning and root-tip size on observations of fungal ITS sequences from Picea glauca roots. Mycologia 101(1): 157-165.

Palmer, Jonathan M.; Lindner, Daniel L.; Volk, Thomas J. 2008. Ectomycorrhizal characterization of an American chestnut (Castanea dentata)-dominated community in Western Wisconsin. Mycorrhiza. 19:27-36.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

Research Partners

  • Last modified: May 6, 2019