Scientists Transplant Soil Fungi to Save Orchids

( – Scientists have been in a race against time to save orchids, now that they’ve discovered a soil fungus that they need to thrive. They have been breeding the fungi and then transplanting them into orchid habitats where they will help the plants grow.

The recent Chelsea Flower Show is one place where U.K. and U.S. scientists set up stands with rare, threatened orchids to raise awareness regarding these plants. According to scientists, a declining orchid population is one of the first signs of climate breakdown in soil microbiology and pollinator abundance.

Melissa McCormick, a researcher from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, said, “They need certain fungi to grow, they have to identify with the underground habitat, then they also need specific pollinators to set seed. So they’re taking in all these different things that are changing above ground and below ground, and they become an indicator of the quality of the environment.”

McCormick said that they are working hard to find other species of fungi that other orchids need to thrive and incorporate into their environment to better conserve them. “We go in and we identify the fungi that they need, we grow the fungi so that it can be used for conservation efforts. We have living fungal collections at the Smithsonian for this purpose,” she said.

They explained that this process is not easy and it’s extensive. They have to ensure that the proper fungus go with the right orchid, because not all orchids thrive with the same environmental factors.

The orchid research program’s lead at Longwood Garden, Peter Zale, said “Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants on the planet, and roughly half of them are conservation concerns.” Scientists are encouraging people to pay attention to, identify, and protect the orchids that they live near.

Copyright 2024,