The Orchidaceae are globally distributed and represent a diverse lineage of obligate mycotrophic plants. Given their dependence on symbiotic fungi for germination and/or plant development, fungal community structure in substrates is expected to influence the distribution and persistence of orchid species. Yet, simultaneous characterization of orchid mycorrhizal fungal (OMF) communities in roots and in soil is rarely reported. To explain the co-distributions of OMF in roots, orchid-occupied, and bulk soil, we characterized mycorrhizal fungi associated with Platanthera praeclara over multiple years across its entire natural distribution within the North American tallgrass prairie. Root derived OMF communities included 24 Ceratobasidiaceae and 7 Tulasnellaceae operational taxonomic units (OTUs) though the orchid exhibited high spatio-temporal specificity toward a single Ceratobasidiaceae OTU, which was strongly stable across population sizes and phenological stages of the sampled individuals. The preferred OMF OTUs were primarily restricted to orchid-occupied locations while infrequent or absent in bulk soil. Variation in soil OMF assemblies was explained most by soil moisture, magnesium, manganese, and clay. In this first study of coupled root and soil OMF communities across a threatened grassland ecosystem, we report a strong relationship, further nuanced by soil chemistry, between a rare fungus and a rare orchid.
- Platanthera praeclara
- Vegetation Management