Mycorrhizal roots come in many types and forms.
Here are some things to keep in mind when determining the
importance of this 'system'.
1. 80-90% of the plants in the world need one of these
fungal partners.(The other 10% are mostly weeds.)
2. Forest trees commit 50% of their energy into this
3. The biomass of fungus that is 'hooked into' a
pasture may be as much as 100 full grown sheep per acre.
4. The foundation of the ecosystem is the fungi. The
types of plants and animals that can survive are governed by the
biobalance of the fungi with the bacteria and plant communities.
5. The parts of the plant that are above ground produce
energy from the sun and reproduce. The parts underground draw
nutrition, moisture and provide support. The fungal partners provide an
energy sink to help the plants during bad times, protect the plants
from diseases, share nutrition and moisture among the plant community,
and provide a much, much larger grid (moisture and energy source) to
6. New plants can 'plug' into this grid and be
supported by the older plants with water and nutrition.
7. Weeds work very hard to destroy the biogrid (Plant
Community & Fungal community). If they are introduced in mass, the
grid collapses as they germinate.
8. If the biogrid is intact it will work very hard at
suppressing alien species. The effect, in a stable plant community, is
a clean park-like look with no weeds. The biogrid system will limit
weeds, where the plant community is stable, and act as an 'immune'
'Oak root fungus' probably is one of the ways biobalance
limits invasion of alien species and too many individuals. Within a
plant community it is a minor problem or even mutualistic, often
supporting orchid type flowers and behaving as a mycorrhizal partner
for some species of plants. Alien species, diseased, or altered native
species (watered, fertilized or sprayed) are attacked.
9. A key point; if the plant is not a proper part of
the community you are building on the site, the community will not
recognize it. I.E., if you are seeding after a fire you can only use
the fire following wildflowers that are native species of your site.
Moreover, if you are restoring a site that is covered with alien
species, you must use the secondary pioneers and climax species of the
site, not wildflowers. A grass that is native in San Jose is not
acceptable seeded on a burnt site in Malibu. The site will lose all of
its rare fire followers if that happens.(Grasses are not pioneer
wildflowers, nor are they the major components of most ecosystems.)
PIONEERS → SECONDARY PIONEERS → CLIMAX SPECIES →
SECONDARY PIONEERS OF NEXT COMMUNITY →
SECOND CLIMAX COMMUNITY
There have been many arguments as to how many communities a
site may go through before it reaches the final climax. Most sites need
300+ years before they get to the second level, with the weeds and fire
problems in California at present worry only about the first.
Care and feeding of native plant roots.
If a lion in the zoo was only fed Twinkies every day and his
water source limited to beer by a chain smoking handler, there would be
a great outcry. For most native plants that is what drip
irrigation and fertilizer is, cigarettes, Twinkies, and beer. Roots
watered with drip have an altered state (not the kind humans have when
they consume this stuff.) Roots can still have a fungal partner, but it
is a parasitic or weedy relationship(the neighbor dog that loves
Twinkles?). Drip irrigation or too frequent watering, both limit the
amount of oxygen around the roots. Irrigation systems with fertilizer
injectors are a smoke filled room where the only food is cookies and
beer. Now I've seen some vegetables thrive on that kind of life, but it
is not one I want my young plants to have or even see. Gophers love
tender over watered and fertilized roots.
We want the wild plant to be raised as a wild plant, but a
healthy one. Treating the roots right is important. Desert plants like
a dry winter and a once every two week sprinkling during the summer.
Most of the rest of California likes a once a week rainfall from
Mid-December through April and no summer water. Plants that grow along
the creeks (Riparian
plant community) like continual moisture, but only wet in winter.
Sounds very complicated? If you use the www.mynativeplants.com
we've made it so you can get a list of the plants that will
grow in your garden. Just don't forget to put the right plants together
in your garden. You do this by putting the wetter plants in one area,
the drier in another. Sun lovers in sun, shade lovers in another area.
Desert plants are kept together, (they're like the lizards and snakes
in the zoo, you wouldn't put them in with the lions and tigers.)
Native plants do not need to be fertilized!
Keep the candy, cookies and beer away from them! A Ceanothus
on drip, with amended soil, and occasional fertilizing will live
between 3-7 years. Wild plants can live to be 100+ years. Garden plants
can look good for 25 or more years if treated right. When 'designers'
tell us what they've done to our plants we don't want to let them take
any more home. It's plant abuse!