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Trees & Fungi: The Symbiotic Relationship Explained

We have all heard of fungi, but what you may not have heard of is the symbiotic relationship that exists between fungi and trees. Many people do not even know that this special relationship exists. Fungi are not always harmful to trees, despite what many people tend to believe. In fact, their relationship to trees can actually be quite the opposite of harmful.

At Mr. Tree Services, we want to share our knowledge not only on fungi and how to identify mushrooms (as some are good, while others are poisonous), but we especially want to make you aware of this special relationship between trees and fungi.

Trees & Fungi The Symbiotic Relationship Explained

The Secretly Advantageous Relationship

This is not a one-sided relationship – both trees and fungi benefit from each other. The fungus on a tree helps to facilitate the uptake of nutrients that are not typically as easily accessible to the tree as other nutrients can be. A couple of these nutrients are nitrogen and phosphates, which are both quite important to the tree. In addition, the fungus also protects the roots of a tree from parasites that can be found in the soil where a tree is planted.

Now, what do fungi get in return for doing all of this for the tree? Sugar. Fungi are able to get some of the sugars that are found in the roots of the tree – sugar that the tree itself does not necessarily need.

To further show you how advantageous this relationship is to both, here is a statistic for you – 85% of all trees (and plants) are reliant on these types of symbiotic relationships, such as with fungi, for their own growth.

They Live Happily Together

Trees and fungi do not hate each other, despite what everyone may think. Yes, we know that trees are vital for us to survive as they draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, convert it, and breathe oxygen back into the world. But, did you know that trees grow both quicker and better when specific, specialized microorganisms are found in their root systems? These microorganisms can be a type of fungus. When the Laccaria bicolor fungus is present, the tree grows better than without it.

When you see fungi on your tree, your instinct may be to remove it, but this is something you should rethink. Instead, consult with one of our arborists to determine if the fungi you’ve identified actually has a harmonious relationship with your tree.

Fungi Could Help Monitor Climate Change

Climate change is a topic that’s commonly in the news and hotly debated, but science continues to support its existence and it’s found that fungi can actually help us monitor its presence.

Researchers have been able to fully sequence the genome of the Laccaria bicolor fungus we spoke about above. This, plus the genome of the poplar, is proving its existence.

Since both genomes are known, researchers are able to figure out how both the tree and the fungus work together and react to stress. This stress includes climate factors such as extreme temperatures and drought, two things that often result from climate change.

Because of this knowledge, researchers have hope that all this information put together will eventually lead to concrete applications in which both trees and fungi can be used to further benefit (and protect) the environment, and all of us, from the potential dangers of climate change.

Fungi Has Essential Proteins

From being able to fully sequence the genome of the Laccaria bicolor fungus, scientists have been able to identify 20,000 genes in the fungal genome. From this research, they were able to find many new discoveries within the fungus. One main discovery is that they found that the Laccaria bicolor fungus actually contains small proteins known as small secreted proteins (SSPs).

What does this have to do with trees? These proteins are only made in the places where the fungus and the tree root are in contact. Yes, that means that these proteins are not possible for the fungus without the help of the tree. Furthermore, the fungus does not have the ability to break down plant cells. However, it does have the ability to affect the cell walls of pathogens. Why is this important? Because this could explain how the fungi work to further protect the tree.

This isn’t the only discovery that scientists found. From looking at the genome, they were able to learn that genes do play an important role in talking with all the necessary parts within the roots of the tree that are involved during the growth process.

See, there truly is quite an important relationship between fungi and trees.

There are some fungi that are helpful and extremely beneficial to the tree, and the tree itself is also quite beneficial to this fungi. The trick is to identify mushrooms and know which are good for your tree, and which are not. You do not want to go ahead and remove fungi that are actually beneficial to your tree.

Of course, you can do this research and see which one the Laccaria bicolor fungus is, but we are more than happy to come over and look at your beloved tree and help you identify mushrooms. We are happy to point them out to you, so you then know what to look for in the future.

Feel free to give us a call anytime, as we would love to come over and help and ease any worries you may have. We want to see your tree thrive, too!