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Myco-heterotrophy facts for kids

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Monotropa uniflora, or ghost plant, is a parasite. This myco-heterotroph gets all its nutrition from a fungus of the Russulaceae family.
Myco-heterotrophic roots of Monotropa uniflora with Russula brevipes mycelium

Myco-heterotrophy is a relationship between certain plants and fungi. The plant gets all or part of its food from parasitism on fungi, not from photosynthesis.

In the past, non-photosynthetic plants were thought to get food by breaking down organic matter like fungi do. Such plants were therefore called "saprophytes". That was wrong. It is now known that no plant is physiologically capable of direct breakdown of organic matter.

To get food, non-photosynthetic plants engage in parasitism, by myco-heterotrophy or direct parasitism of other plants.

The interface between the plant and fungal partners in this association is between the roots of the plant and the mycelium of the fungus. Myco-heterotrophy therefore closely resembles mycorrhiza, and is thought to have evolved from mycorrhiza.

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Myco-heterotrophy Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.