The Waterman and Hill-Traveller's Companion, a Natural Events Almanac
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Mycorhiza is a Latin word that literally means "fungus root". Mycorhiza are fungi that specialize in living symbiotically on the roots of plants. Some of our most sought after (and tastiest) fungi are mycorhizal in origin - morels, chanterelles, hen-of-the-woods and truffles. Nearly every plant that has been scientifically investigated has been found to possess their own unique mycorhizal species.

Mycorhizal fungi form nets around the ends of plant roots where they actually grow into the root system of the plants themselves. The fungi extend considerable distances from the plants they pair with forming, in effect, an extension of the plant's root system. The fungi collect water, antibiotic compounds and mineral nutrients, and exchange them with their plant partners for sugars and other substances only green plants can produce thereby benefitting both organisms.

Mycorhiza also act as communication systems for the plants they pair with. When a plant is attacked by insects or other pests the plant produces compounds to repel the invaders. The mycorhizal net transfers these compounds to the other plants thereby warning them of the danger and stimulating them to produce identical compounds that render them toxic to the invaders making the whole forest more resistant to disease, pests and pathogens.

The information on this page is tailored to Southern Illinois, Southwest Indiana, Western Kentucky, and Southeast Missouri

Copyright © 2005 Jim Jung