What does Ectomycorrhizae mean?
Ectomycorrhizae is one of the three main types of mychorrizal fungi, a symbiotic relationship that forms between plants and certain fungi that also live in or on the roots of a plant.
Ectomycorrhizae are found in the root zones of plants like pine, fir, spruce, oak, and eucalyptus, whereas Endomycorrhizae (arbuscular mycorrhizae) are found in the root zones for most vascular plants. Ericoid mycorrhizae are found in the root zones of blueberry, rhododendron, azalea, Pieris, and cranberry plants.
Ectomycorrhizae is related to, but to not to be confused with Endomycorrhizae, which is a relationship where the fungi actually penetrates the roots. Ectomycorrhizae do not penetrate root cells; they simply colonize around the root zone of the plant.
Many plants and fungi co-exist in a relationship that benefits both species. The fungi will attract and absorb nutrients that will be also be shared with the plant. In horticulture, this is also known as a mycorrhizal relationship. A mycorrhizal root will attract and take up more nutrients than an unaffected one and so many different plants utilize this relationship with fungi in different ways.
Ectomycorrhizae, while not as common as other forms, is vital to plants and the fungi and is believed to have played a huge role in the evolutionary jump of plants from being aquatic to growing on land. Ectomycorrhizal fungi colonize the roots of trees like pines, firs, oaks, eucalyptus, hazelnut, and birch.
Ectomycorrhizal fungi do not penetrate the cell walls of their hosts, rather, they form an intercellular interface that consists of highly branched hyphae, or a latticework, between the epidermal and cortical root cells.
In contrast to Endomycorrhizae (Arbuscular Mycorrhizae), which benefits vascular plants, Ectomycorrhizae is a lot less common. Most growers looking to inoculate their edible crops with mycorrhizae only need to be concerned with Endomycorrhizae (Arbuscular Mycorrhizae), which is an added ingredient in some soils.