The who, what? Yes, it is a “ten-dollar word” as my grandfather used to say. It’s also a very beneficial fungi. First though, it’s pronounced, “mike-oh-rise-eye” for those who, like me, have to know.

Mycorrhizae, the word, is a combination of Greek words: mykes, which is fungus, and rhiza, which is root. Mycorrhizae, the gardeners’ friend, are fantastic little fungi that develop symbiotic relationships with plant roots. Biologists estimate that up to 90% of all land plants have some kind of beneficial symbiosis with mycorrhizae.

What Does Mycorrhizae Do?

This intrepid fungi penetrates plant root tissue, surrounds the root mass, and reaches far out into the surrounding soil. Their network goes much farther then the plants’ own root system can reach. Just as plant roots have hairs, the mycorrhizae have long thread-like mycelia (hairs) that collect moisture and nutrients from the soil. They’re especially good at collecting phosphorous and nitrogen.

They eat their fair share, but they also pass along a good share to the host plant. Since symbiosis is a two-way relationship, the host plant shares photosynthesized nutrients (especially sugars) with the mycorrhizae.

Soil Structure Benefits

Mycorrhizae perform an important soil-binding task, too. The many long filaments, or hyphae, collect in the soil year after year. They hyphae are sticky due to extracellular polysaccharides (EPs). These are sugars released by the mycorrhizae. The tips of the host plants’ root hairs secrete polysaccharidic mucigel, which is the plant version of the EPs secreted by the mycorrhizae.

All this stickiness allows the hyphae to stick to soil particles and bind them together. The particles end up forming semi-stable aggregates and this structure makes the root zone larger. A larger root zone invites more root growth, which attracts more mycorrhizae. This creates more soil binding and the whole process repeats. This entire process greatly increases a friable soil texture.

Benefits to the Gardener

Mycorrhizae create ideal soil structure. Your soil drains, breaths, and retains the perfect level of moisture. They also help feed your plants and increase drought tolerance. If you have ever seen the “coffee grounds” texture of a well-kept organic garden, you’ve seen the perfect example of long-term mycorrhizal activity.

Stop by Hydro-Scape to learn more and pick up products with beneficial Mycorrhizae in them. Our favorite, Tri-C Revival Plus also contains a Soil Conditioner. Your plants will thank you and you’ll see the difference in their growth and appearance.