Microbe Mutualist Plants of Virginia

Vascular plants are masters of microbial mutualisms. Help us learn more about this important ecological interaction in Virginia.

Approximately 80% of vascular plants rely on root-dwelling fungi to liberate mineral nutrients from the soil; the taxonomic and ecological breadth of these root fungi, called mycorrhizae, is remarkable. For example, montane hemlock trees, wetland sedges and forest-dwelling wintergreen all have mycorrhizae. A smaller percentage of species – mostly leguminous plants - rely on root-dwelling bacteria to fix atmospheric nitrogen into biologically useful fertilizer. In return, these vascular plants provide their fungal and bacterial assistants with a place to live and a share of the sugars fixed via photosynthesis. In this project, we have assembled herbarium specimens from 24 plant genera that have mycorrhizae as well as over 30 genera of papilionoid legumes that interact with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Information about mycorrhizal taxa was assembled from Brundett, M.C. (2009). “Mycorrhizal associations and other means of nutrition of vascular plants. understanding the global diversity of host plants by resolving conflicting information and developing reliable means of diagnosis.” Plant Soil 320: 37-77. Inset: flowers of Lespedeza virginica (Slender Bush Clover), a nitrogen-fixing legume. Banner: Thin tissue cross-sections of the roots of the mycorrhizal orchid, Corallorhiza sp., showing thread-like inclusions of beneficial fungal hyphae within the root cells.   

How to Participate

This project has the following active expeditions:

Expeditions % Complete Join In
Microbe Mutualist Plants of Virginia I   100.00% Notes From Nature V2  
George Mason University 
Andrea Weeks  
Contact Title
State lead 
Organization Website
Project Partners
South East Regional Network of Expertise and Collections (SERNEC). Virginia Master Naturalists, Virginia Native Plant Society  
Funding Source
National Science Foundation #EF-1410086, “Digitization TCN: Collaborative Research: The Key to the Cabinets: Building and sustaining a research database for a global biodiversity hotspot.” and the Virginia Native Plant Society.   
Geographic Scope
The Commonwealth of Virginia, USA  
Taxonomic Scope
Vascular plants  
Temporal Scope
1880's to present  
Language Skills Required
Virginia, flora, mycorrhizae, bacteria, symbiosis, nitrogen-fixation, ecology  

Heat Map of Collection Location of Transcribed Specimens