Diversity of mycorrhizal fungi of terrestrial orchids: compatibility webs, brief encounters, lasting relationships and alien invasions.
The diversity of mycorrhizal fungi associated with an introduced weed-like South African orchid (Disa bracteata) and a disturbance-intolerant, widespread, native West Australian orchid (Pyrorchis nigricans) were compared by molecular identification of the fungi isolated from single pelotons. Molecular identification revealed both orchids were associated with fungi from diverse groups in the Rhizoctonia complex with worldwide distribution. Symbiotic germination assays confirmed the majority of fungi isolated from pelotons were mycorrhizal and a factorial experiment uncovered complex webs of compatibility between six terrestrial orchids and 12 fungi from Australia and South Africa. Two weed-like (disturbance-tolerant rapidly spreading) orchids - D. bracteata and the indigenous Australian Microtis media, had the broadest webs of mycorrhizal fungi. In contrast, other native orchids had relatively small webs of fungi (Diuris magnifica and Thelymitra crinita), or germinated exclusively with their own fungus (Caladenia falcata and Pterostylis sanguinea). Orchids, such as D. bracteata and M. media, which form relationships with diverse webs of fungi, had apparent specificity that decreased with time, as some fungi had brief encounters with orchids that supported protocorm formation but not subsequent seedling growth. The interactions between orchid mycorrhizal fungi and their hosts are discussed.