Scabiosa columbaria (Dipsacaceae) is a popular perennial ornamental in the United States. It is native to Europe and was introduced to North America by nursery trade only recently. In the spring of 2006, symptoms of powdery mildew infection were observed on overwintered plants of S. columbaria cv. Butterfly Blue in a nursery in Cutchogue, NY. White powdery mildew mycelia with abundant sporulation were observed on upper and lower leaf surfaces. The portions of leaves with powdery mildew colonies often showed purplish discoloration. Conidia were cylindric to doliiform, measured 20 to 33 × 10 to 15 μm, and were produced singly on 60 to 130 μm long conidiophores consisting of a foot-cell measuring 20 to 50 × 6 to 10 μm, followed by one to three, 12 to 40 μm long cells. Hyphal appressoria were lobed or multilobed. The teleomorph stage was not found. On the basis of these characteristics, the pathogen was identified as an Oidium sp. belonging to the subgenus Pseudoidium. Recently, an anamorphic powdery mildew fungus with similar morphological characteristics, identified as Erysiphe knautiae, was reported on S. columbaria cv. Butterfly Blue in Washington (2). E. knautiae is a common powdery mildew species of dipsacaceous plants such as Scabiosa spp. and Knautia spp. in Europe and Asia (1). To determine whether the fungus reported here was E. knautiae, DNA was extracted from its mycelium, and the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of the ribosomal DNA was amplified and sequenced as described earlier (4). No ITS sequences are available in public DNA databases for E. knautiae, thus, we determined this sequence in a specimen of E. knautiae collected from Knautia arvensis in The Netherlands. Herbarium specimens of the Oidium sp. infecting S. columbaria in New York and E. knautiae from the Netherlands were deposited at the U.S. National Fungus Collections under accession numbers BPI 878259 and BPI 878258, respectively. The ITS sequence from Oidium sp. infecting S. columbaria in New York (GenBank Accession No. EU377474) differed in two nucleotides from that of E. knautiae infecting K. arvensis in the Netherlands (GenBank Accession No. EU377475). These two ITS sequences were also more than 99% similar to those of some newly emerged anamorphic powdery mildew fungi: Oidium neolycopersici and other Oidium spp. infecting Chelidonium majus, Passiflora caerulea, and some crassulaceous plants (3,4). Thus, it is unclear whether the fungus reported here was E. knautiae known from Eurasia or an Oidium sp. that has acquired pathogenicity to S. columbaria. To our knowledge, this is the first report of powdery mildew on S. columbaria in New York.
References: (1) U. Braun. Beih. Nova Hedwigia 89:1, 1987. (2) D. A. Glawe and G. G. Grove. Online publication. doi:10.1094/PHP-2005-1024-01-BR. Plant Health Progress, 2005. (3) B. Henricot. Plant Pathol. 57:779, 2008. (4) T. Jankovics et al. Phytopathology 98:529, 2008.