The Fungi that Live in Tree Roots


It is estimated that ≥90% of living plants are connected to specialized fungi, known as mycorrhizal fungi, through their root systems. The term "mycorrhizae" means "fungus-root", and is used to describe the lifestyle of fungal species that live in very close (symbiotic) relationships with plants. These partnerships are based primarily around the exchange of sugars and lipids from plants for better access to water and nutrients from fungi - making them very important for forest health.

Forest trees typically associate with either ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) or arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF; both pictured below). Both types of mycorrhizal fungi comprise many species, yet they spend most to all of their lifecycles underground and often cannot be seen with the naked eye. 

Given the importance of these interactions for forest health and function, it becomes useful to know which fungal species are where - and why. The root and soil samples you submit are processed by collegiate students and scientists of the Lankau Lab to extract DNA and identify fungal species. We then pair this data with the GPS coordinates you submit to determine where mycorrhizal fungal species live.

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on a plant root 

Ectomycorrhizal fungi on plant roots