Identification: Root Like Soil Fungus

Discussion in 'Fungi, Lichens and Slime Molds' started by Kamloops_John, Apr 1, 2006.

  1. Kamloops_John

    Kamloops_John Member

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    I have what I can only guess to be a fungus that has spread through the soil of my flower beds and garden. It grows several inches to over a foot below the surface. It looks like a mass of small roots, with small white tips on the ends that are growing. These ends are like beans sproats (watery) when you squeeze them but the older part of the root is solid and almost seems woody. I have never seen any sign of a fruiting body or any kind of a normal photosythesizing plant part with these root like structures. I have attached a picture. Can someone let me know what this might be and if there is a way to get rid of it and control it? Digging it up doesn't work.
     

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  2. Geastrum

    Geastrum Active Member

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    Is the fungus growing on the tips of the plant roots? It could be that the fungus in question is forming mycorrhizae with the plant. There are several types of mycorrhizae, but essentially the interaction between the fungus and plant fungus enables better mineral uptake from the soil, while the plant supplies carbon to the fungus. This relationship benefits both organisms. If this is the case, it is something you want to maintain, not eliminate.

    From what plant or tree did you get the roots that are in the picture? Is there anything that suggests your plants are unhealthy?
     
  3. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    I only see roots in the picture, Kamloops_John. Do you have a tree or shrub nearby that might be vigorously sending shallow roots into the rich soil of your garden beds?
     
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    What you have is a tree or shrub rooting into the bed.
     
  5. wrygrass2

    wrygrass2 Active Member 10 Years

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    Flowerbeds attract tree roots like a magnet I think. :) Probably due to the fact that it is the one place in the yard where the soil is apt to be dug and well watered. Many trees and shrubs send roots out well beyond the drip line. Harry
     
  6. Mycos

    Mycos Active Member

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    Unless you have Shoestring Root Rot = Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria-ella mellea group) mycorrhizomes running through your plant beds somehow (they are tough, thick and dark as well) that looks like a regular root.

    John. I'm in Kamloops. 376-3540. Be glad to look at the problem personally.
     
  7. wrygrass2

    wrygrass2 Active Member 10 Years

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    Mycos,

    My understanding was that mycorhiza was a fungus that was symbiotic with a plant. The root being a plant part, such as an orchid root, and the fungus although symbiotic was something that existed with(in) it. Are you saying that there is a fungus that actually forms root-like appendages ie. rhizines in some Peltigera species, that resemble tree roots? Or does it simply alter the roots it finds in the bed? Also, what kind of size are we looking at here, both diameter and how far it would spread within a bed?

    Harry
     
  8. Mycos

    Mycos Active Member

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    Yes. There's also two main ways they interact with roots. Ecto-and endo-mycorrhizae. Wikipedia has a good description of the difference, although the root word difference has tipped you to whether they sheath outside then extend the root system of the tree, or whether they get into the root (usually herbaceous plants-- like your orchid example-- in this case) and do some other marvelous tricks.

    You may remember hearing talk of the "most massive living organisms" as being an Armillaria fungus (several different Honey Mushroom species I keep hearing). What they are reffering to is precisely that growth that is extending throughout acres and acres of forest, all the same genetically identical stock...all one giant organism running throughout the forest gathering nutrients from the duff and others from trees. In the case of Armillaria however, I should point out that Foresters are generally not happy with them because they tend to do more damage than good, at least in the eyes of the timber industry. That black cord (Shoestring) gets so thick and tight that it will actually cut off root circulation in places. These larger mycorhizome runners also act as distribution channels for the nutrients and moisture the finer white mycelium has collected. Some think there's evidence for other information being somehow transmitted. The majority of endo-mycorrhizal relationships are very cordial however, even essential. Plots where test tree seedlings are pre-infected with one (or more) of these mycorihizae and other have been left sterile. The infected ones do far better than the ones that are on their own, surely due to their having to get ALL their moisture and nutrients from their root area alone, more limited than the extensions created by the mycorrhizae. They are soon shaded out by their faster healhier mates and die.

    And then there's all the commercially valuable mushrooms that are the fruit of fungi having this relationship with the forest. Chanterelles, Matsutake, Truffles, King Boletes..all are the fruit of these ectomycorrhizal fungi.

    Ahhh. There's much,. much more I could say on this subject, so I encourage you to find a local mycological society and see all the weird and wonderful things gathered there in person. (the mushrooms usually on display are often quite interesting too ;-) )
     
  9. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Armillaria seems to be common in gardens here, unfortunately. Old hybrid rhododendron plants often have rhizomorphs on their trunks. An akebia I planted on Camano Island a few years back, while green, was not growing much after a year or so in place. When I took hold of the top it came right off, to reveal where it had clearly been pinched off by armillaria. Where there should have been a root flare there were criss-crossing rhizomorphs.
     
  10. Mycos

    Mycos Active Member

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    Ahh, what a shame. Up here in BC there's an area within Manning Park where there is a large population of the native Red Rhododendron. Rather than being threatened by the destructive Shoestring Root-Rot of Armillaria, these Rhodo's are characterized by the appearance of a large flush of the commercially valuable White Matsutake (Tricholoma magnivelare) mushroom. I'm not sure if the partnership is with the Rhodos, or whether it's another tree; the Rhododendron and Matsutake merely showing a common preference for the Mor soil conditions of this area. In any event, every picking season sees a game of cat 'n mouse with the authorities as pickers try to get in and out of the park with their haul undetected.

    On another note, I should correct an error in the last post of mine. In the second paragraph, I stated:"The majority of endo-mycorrhizal relationships are very cordial". I should have said ecto-mycorrhizal. Or better, just left a prefix off entirely. Mycorrhizal relationships are beneficial to both.... otherwise we'd be calling them parasites, no? <g> Of interest to taxonomy folks might be the fact that Honey Mushrooms (or Shoestring Root-Rot, depending on your perspective) and Matsutake used to be placed in the same genus: Armillaria. That genus has since been reserved for the parasitic members while the symbiotic mycorrhizae have been moved back into the genus Tricholoma; both of the Family Tricholomataceae.
     
  11. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    "Red" rhododendron? That's a bit of a stretch.
     
  12. Mycos

    Mycos Active Member

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    What do you call them in Washington? It's the same one as your State Flower.
     
  13. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Yes, I know what species it is. Coast rhododendron is more usual. There are rhodendrons that are genuinely red. This is not one of them.
     
  14. Mycos

    Mycos Active Member

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    Uh. I see. Just a bad choice of pics.
    Yeah, I just picked up the first one I saw on the Manning Park link without really thinking of whether it was a good "type" specimen or not. I suppose that's a good object lesson in what happens when one strays from their own area of expertise <g>.
     

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