Cephalanthera rubra (L.) Rich., Red Helleborine, is a widespread orchid in Europe but known only from three very small populations in England. These populations are in decline with no natural seed setting for more than a decade. The species may become extinct in the UK soon unless viable strategies are in place for ex situ conservation, especially the use of symbiotic propagation. Because of the fragile nature of the populations in England mycorrhizal fungal diversity study is not feasible. Therefore, to understand the factors needed for healthy Red Helleborine populations, soil characteristics and diversity of culturable root-derived fungi of the populations from a small area in the Loire Valley in France were studied. The main objectives of the study were: (1) Which culturable mycorrhizal fungi associated with C. rubra roots and (2) To what extent is variation in fungal communities related to variation in soil characteristics? Here, we report a significant difference in diversity of culturable mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal fungi depending on soil pH and phosphorus content. Mycorrhizal associations were favoured by plants in locations with low soil nutrient availability and comparatively higher pH. Our study shows that mycorrhizal fungi, both ecto and endo, can be cultured from roots of plants at different maturity stages.
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