• Habitat Preference of Three Parasitic Orchids Occurring Sympatrically in an Arizona Sky Island

      Verrier, James T.; Univ Arizona, Sch Plant Sci (University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 2017-10)
      Detailed habitat information for the holomycotrophic orchids, Corallorhiza maculata, C. striata, and C. wisteriana, was recorded from multiple sites in the Santa Catalina Mountains, southeastern Arizona. This study was initiated to see if there are predictable associations with host trees. Over 1,400 flowering stems were observed from 244 microsites at 10 localities across a 305 m elevational gradient, and within an area of 7 km2 (700 hectares). While C. maculata showed a preference for southwestern white pine (Pinus strobiformis), C. striata associated with white fir (Abies concolor) and bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum). White fir and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menzesii var. glauca) were the preferred associates of C. wisteriana. Orchids were found at microsites along lower slopes at up to 45% inclinations and generally 3-24 m above the slope base. Nearly all sites were north facing with moderate to thick leaf litter. A third of all microsites had no forbs or graminoids associated with orchid clusters, confirming the obligate association with primarily conifers. The local distribution showed a pattern of niche partitioning, with the three species occurring in similar habitats but depending on different host trees. Although C. striata and C. wisteriana associated mainly with white fir, C. striata favored habitat with more nutrient-rich soils.