This paper addresses the assumed autonomy of vascular plants by revealing the presence of an obligate fungus structurally integrated with leaf anatomy of C4 grasses. We examined leaf surfaces of 26 species representing 14 genera of C4 grasses. In all species, we found similarities between leaf surface microhair-like structures and Uredomycete teliospores. These bicellular structures produced hyphae and spores, confirming they were fungal, rather than plant tissue. The plant-fungus structural morphology was also observed in Bouteloua eriopoda plants regenerated from embryonic meristem cells. The conserved symbiosis between fungi and C4 grasses suggests a lichenous association with evolutionary significance. The structural integration of endosymbiotic fungi with cells and tissues offers novel and unexplored approaches to developing physiological, ecological, and systematic models of C4 grasses.
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Vol. 43 • No. 1