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New Phytol. 2005 Aug;167(2):335-52.

The evolutionary ecology of myco-heterotrophy.

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  • 1Imperial College London & Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, TW9 3DS, UK.


Nonphotosynthetic mycorrhizal plants have long attracted the curiosity of botanists and mycologists, and they have been a target for unabated controversy and speculation. In fact, these puzzling plants dominated the very beginnings of the field of mycorrhizal biology. However, only recently has the mycorrhizal biology of this diverse group of plants begun to be systematically unravelled, largely following a landmark Tansley review a decade ago and crucial developments in the field of molecular ecology. Here I explore our knowledge of these evolutionarily and ecologically diverse plant-fungal symbioses, highlighting areas where there has been significant progress. The focus is on what is arguably the best understood example, the monotropoid mycorrhizal symbiosis, and the overarching goal is to lay out the questions that remain to be answered about the biology of myco-heterotrophy and epiparasitism.

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