The arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) association between fungi in the order Glomales and the roots of a very wide range of vascular plants is of global ecological significance but has proved particularly intractable to study in the field. We have developed a reliable technique to identify the fungal symbionts in roots taken directly from natural communities. Selective Enrichment of Amplified DNA combines the use of recently-developed specific DNA primers with a novel method based on the principle of subtractive hybridization to remove interfering plant-derived DNA after amplification with the polymerase chain reaction. Using this technique we have shown that endomycorrhizas of bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) sampled directly from a woodland habitat are multispceies communities of varying composition which contain at least three genera of mycorrhizal fungi. The technique works well on a range of plant species and should have wide application to the identification of other symbionts, including pathogens. A spore survey has indicated that two particular AM types are associated with bluebells and this observation corroborates the molecular data. The presence of a Glomus species in bluebell roots was not expected from the spore data.
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