Mycorrhizal symbiosis in orchids is unique in that fungal presence is considered a requirement for germination as well as for further development. Additionally, orchid fungal associations can exhibit high specificity in nature. Yet, an important ecological question remains unanswered: ‘With which orchid mycorrhizal fungi (OMF) do un-inoculated orchid seedlings form symbiosis when cultured ex situ?’ Simultaneously, it is asserted that orchid conservation efforts involving ex situ plant culture should exclusively utilize natural symbionts of the respective orchid taxa. We present a first comparison of OMF communities within the roots of asymbiotically cultured plants of the rare orchid Platanthera chapmanii grown ex situ (ES), and those occurring naturally in situ (IS). Nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (nrITS) barcoding region was used to identify peloton forming OMF from roots collected between 2012 and 2014 from both growing environments. Our 114 sequences clustered into 11 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) belonging to four closely related clades of the fungal family Tulasnellaceae. Shannon–Wiener (H) and Simpson diversity (D) indices were similar (p = 0.81 for both) for ES and IS OMF communities. Beta diversity comparisons also showed similarity between ES and IS treatments based on weighted (p = 0.10) and unweighted (p = 0.20) Bray–Curtis dissimilarity matrices. Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood (ML) phylograms clustered ES and IS derived fungal OTUs into the same clades. Our data suggest that P. chapmanii: (1) forms symbiosis with taxonomically similar fungi in ex situ culture and in its native soil, and (2) exhibits a narrow phylogenetic breadth of mycorrhizal fungal OTUs within the Tulasnellaceae.
- Sanger sequencing