Chris will finish her MS in the fall of 2006 at SUNY-ESF in the faculty of Environmental and Foresty Biology. Her thesis dealt with the ecology of pinedrops (Pterospora andromedea), a rare plant in the state of New York and in the Northeastern U.S. in general. This is a relative of the more common indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora). Both of these plants are achlorophyllous members of Ericaceae and are parasitic on ectomycorrhizal fungi. A great deal of recent research in the west by Martin Bidartondo and Tom Bruns formed the basis of her study in the east.
Chris found that pinedrops are associated with one species of Rhizopogon in the east, probably a new species. The fungus is associated with eastern white pine (Pinus strobus). She also found that the species of fungus is relatively rare in soils of the Northeastern U.S., based on lab soil bioassays using eastern white pine as a green plant host, and in field bioassays using pinedrops seeds in seed packets as bait for the fungi.
Investigations into the Mycorrhizal Ecology of Pterospora andromedea.
The myco-heterotrophic plant Pterospora andromedea (pinedrops) is common in the western United States, but rare in the East. An explanation for this regional
rarity could be that its mycorrhizal symbiont is uncommon in the East. In the western United States several haplotypes of pinedrops exist. These haplotypes are specific to one of two common ectomycorrhizal fungi within the genus Rhizopogon subgenus Amylopogon, both associated with members of Pinaceae. In this study only one eastern pinedrops haplotype/fungal symbiont pair was detected. The plant haplotype was not unique. However, the fungal symbiont is an undescribed species in the subgenus Amylopogon and associates with Pinus strobus. This eastern Rhizopogon species is uncommon in the spore banks of eastern P. strobus forests. The rarity of eastern pinedrops is discussed in relation to the frequency of its fungal symbiont. An in situ pinedrops seed germination study and baseline habitat data for eastern pinedrops are presented.