The threatened plant intermediate wintergreen (Pyrola media) associates with a wide range of biotrophic fungi in native Scottish pine woods
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- Toftegaard, T., Iason, G.R., Alexander, I.J. et al. Biodivers Conserv (2010) 19: 3963. doi:10.1007/s10531-010-9940-8
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The plant intermediate wintergreen (Pyrola media, Ericaceae) is in need of conservation action in Scotland. Although widespread, it is locally distributed in dwarf shrub heath and more commonly in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) woodlands. A recent study on the mycorrhizal status of Pyrola suggested that they associate with a restricted range of ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi. Here, we examined the hypothesis that specialisation by P. media for fungi usually associated with Scots pine is a factor in promoting its occurrence in this habitat. The fungal community associated with the roots of P. media growing in a Scots pine forest was determined by morphotyping, polymerase chain reaction, cloning and sequencing. Molecular identification found 49 taxa representing ecto- and ericoid mycorrhizal fungi, dark septate endophytes, saprotrophs, and fungi of unknown trophic status. The majority of the taxa (67.4%) were Basidiomycota, with 24.4% known to be ECM fungi specific to Pinus sp. or conifers. However, a wide range of other mycorrhizal fungi with varying degrees of host specificity were also found, including taxa usually associated with deciduous hosts. In conclusion, the broad range of mycorrhizal fungi recovered from the roots of P. media suggests that specialization is not a major factor in determining its distribution.