South African Journal of Science
On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
Forestry is an economically important industry in South Africa, involving extensive exotic plantations of Eucalyptus, Pinus and Acacia species. These tree species have fungal associations, such as ectomycorrhizas, that have become locally naturalized. The forestry industry is increasingly faced with problems of long-term sustainability, increasing soil acidity and depletion of soil nutrients. It is, therefore, essential that the fundamental importance of the ectomycorrhizal (ECM) symbioses in the nutrient cycling, growth, health and survival of these tree species should not be ignored. Research on the species diversity of ECM fungi associated with forestry plant species has been hampered by the difficulty of identifying the fungi involved in the symbiosis. This investigation focused on the ECM fungi associated with Pinus patula (Schlecht. et Cham.) grown in managed plantations in the Sabie region, Mpumalanga province, South Africa. ECM roots were morphotyped and DNA was extracted. The internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region was amplified using the ITS 1F and ITS 4 primers. The sequences were BLASTed using the GenBank and UNITE databases. Twenty-seven extractions were successfully amplified representing 17 different morphotypes. Of the 27 sequences, 21 were identified as ECM fungi and, from the BLAST results, eleven different ECM species could be identified. Selected ECM root types were morphologically and anatomically described according to root morphology, mantle structure, specialized hyphae and rhizomorph arrangement. Seven dominant field types were described and identified as two Amanita species, Scleroderma citrinum, a suilloid species, Thelephora terrestris, a tometelloid species and one resembled an Albatrellus species.