With all the forest fires rampaging through the drought-stricken areas of the USA and Canada, there appears to be at least one other glimmer of goodness that comes from all this damage. I think we’re all familiar with the Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta) from western USA, which requires fire to melt the resin from its serotinous cones so they can germinate. But there is also a fungi which becomes active and grows after a forest fire. It is called Pyrophilous.
A study conducted by Daniel B Raudabaugh etal suggests that Pyrophilous taxas are endophytes of bryophytes and club moss, and also endolichenic fungi of lichens. What this means is that the Pyrophilous fungi which appear out of the ashes of a forest fire are apparently living patiently in the bodies of mosses and lichens just waiting for a forest fire to free them to grow.
Further investigation needs to be conducted to determine the extent and duration of the endophytic relationship – can it go on forever if there is no forest fire?
Other research has suggested that Pyrophilous fungi spores lie dormant in the soil or that they occur as mycorrhiza root pathogens or soil saprobes. Still other evidence suggests they might also be found in tree trunks or the tree canopies. However, there is still a lot to research about the Pyrophilous taxa.
A really good layman’s explanation of this phenomenon can be found in PhysOrg
Other Plants Requiring Fire to Germinate
Other pines which produce serotinous cones include the Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana) aka Scrub Pine which grows in North Central and Northeastern USA and Table Mountain Pine (Pinus pungens) aka Hickory or Prickly Pine which grows in the Appalachian Mountains.
Another plant which appears after a forest fire in Northern California and Southeastern Oregon is the Baker’s Globe Mallow (Iliamna bakeri) aka Baker’s Wild Hollyhock. This flowering shrub needs the extreme heat of fire to germinate and produce its beautiful pink blossoms.
Vocabulary (in order of use):
Serotinous means remaining closed on the tree with seed dissemination delayed or occurring gradually.(Merriam-Webster)
Fungal endophytes are extremely common and highly diverse microorganisms that live within plant tissues, but usually remain asymptomatic. (Oxford Academic)
Endolichenic fungi are diverse groups of predominantly filamentous fungi that reside asymptomatically in the interior of lichen thalli. (ResearchGate)
Mycorrhiza is a a beneficial type of fungi that grows in association with most plant roots. … Mycorrhizae also release powerful enzymes that help dissolve nutrients such as organic nitrogen, phosphorous, and iron. Mycorrhiza may also be known as fungus root. (Maximum Yield)
Pathogen is a biological agent that causes disease or illness to its host. The term is most often used for agents that disrupt the normal physiology of a multicellular animal or plant. (ScienceDaily)
Saprobes are the group of fungi that act as decomposers, feeding on dead and decaying wood, leaves, litter, and other organic matter. To digest this they secrete enzymes that break it down. (Te Ara)
Thalli plural for tallus refers to the body of a plant that does not have leaves, stems and roots. In botany, historically, this term has been applied to algae, fungi and the various divisions of bryophytes. Although algae and fungi are no longer classified as plants, the term thallus has been retained to refer to the bodies of algae and fungi. (Botany Dept U of Hawaii at Manoa)