Most mycorrhizas are ‘balanced’ mutualistic associations in which the fungus and plant exchange commodities required for their growth and survival. Myco-heterotrophic plants have ‘exploitative’ mycorrhizas where transfer processes apparently benefit only plants. Exploitative associations are symbiotic (in the broad sense), but are not mutualistic. A new definition of mycorrhizas that encompasses all types of these associations while excluding other plant-fungus interactions is provided. This definition recognises the importance of nutrient transfer at an interface resulting from synchronised plant-fungus development. The diversity of interactions between mycorrhizal fungi and plants is considered. Mycorrhizal fungi also function as endophytes, necrotrophs and antagonists of host or non-host plants, with roles that vary during the lifespan of their associations. It is recommended that mycorrhizal associations are defined and classified primarily by anatomical criteria regulated by the host plant. A revised classification scheme for types and categories of mycorrhizal associations defined by these criteria is proposed. The main categories of vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal associations (VAM) are ‘linear’ or ‘coiling’, and of ectomycorrhizal associations (ECM) are ‘epidermal’ or ‘cortical’. Subcategories of coiling VAM and epidermal ECM occur in certain host plants. Fungus-controlled features result in ‘morphotypes’ within categories of VAM and ECM. Arbutoid and monotropoid associations should be considered subcategories of epidermal ECM and ectendomycorrhizas should be relegated to an ECM morphotype. Both arbuscules and vesicles define mycorrhizas formed by glomeromycotan fungi. A new classification scheme for categories, subcategories and morphotypes of mycorrhizal associations is provided.
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