2017 Distinguished Speaker
Dr. Dennis Whigham
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and North American Orchid Conservation Center
"Native Orchids and Mycorrhiza – Ecologically Complex Interactions"
Mark your calendar for the next NEBC Meeting on April 7, 2017, at Harvard University with lecture by Dr. Dennis Whigham.
Abstract: Native Orchids and Mycorrhiza – Ecologically Complex Interactions
Dennis F. Whigham
The Orchidaceae is a species-rich family of flowering plants with more than 30,000 known taxa globally. Like most terrestrial plants, orchid species interact with mycorrhizal fungi, but unlike most plants, there is little evidence that the interactions are mutualistic. Most research indicates that orchids manage the plant-fungal interactions and they consume the fungi as sources of carbon and other resources. Dependency on fungi has evolved in a number of orchid lineages to a complete dependency on fungi resulting in many species being completely mycoheterotrophic. Understanding orchid-fungal interactions is not only interesting, but it is key to orchid conservation because all orchids have, at least, one life history stage that is completely depending on fungi.
Dennis will focus on native orchids of the U.S. and Canada to describe the ecological challenges that remain obstacles to a more complete understanding of orchid-fungal interactions. He will link issues related to orchid ecology to a Smithsonian-initiated continental-scale effort to use an ecological model to conserve native orchids through a collaborative effort that is being developed by the North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC). Dennis will describe how members of the New England Botanical Club have already provided important support for NAOCC and how members can become engaged in the only effort to assure the survival of an entire plant family at a continental scale.