Cornus florida L. (Cornaceae), flowering dogwood, is a small deciduous tree whose showy inflorescences, clusters of bright red fruits and red and purple leaves in autumn, make it a much appreciated ornamental. During the summer of 2008, severe outbreaks of a previously unknown powdery mildew were observed in several gardens and nurseries in Piedmont (northern Italy). Young leaves were covered with dense, white mycelia and conidia, especially on the adaxial surface. As the disease progressed, infected leaves turned red. Conidia were hyaline, elliptical, borne singly, and measured 32 to 46 × 15 to 20 (average 38 × 17) μm. Conidiophores measured 68 to 77 × 8 to 9 (average 73 × 8) μm, with a cylindrical foot cell measuring 26 to 37 × 8 to 10 (average 31 × 9) μm, followed by two shorter cells. Fibrosin bodies were absent. No chasmothecia were observed. The ITS region (internal transcribed spacer) of rDNA was amplified using primers ITS4/ITS6 and sequenced. The 627-bp sequence (Accession No. EU FJ436989 in GenBank) has 99% identity with Erysiphe pulchra. As proof of pathogenicity, diseased leaves were pressed against leaves of three healthy 3-year-old plants. Three noninoculated plants served as controls. Inoculated and noninoculated plants were maintained outdoors at 13 to 21°C. After 15 days, typical powdery mildew colonies developed on inoculated plants. Noninoculated plants did not show symptoms. The pathogenicity test was carried out twice. To our knowledge, this is the first report of the presence of powdery mildew on C. florida caused by E. pulchra in Italy. Powdery mildew of dogwood, caused by Microsphaera (Erysiphe) pulchra, has been reported in the United States (3) and Japan (1). In Italy, a powdery mildew caused by an Oidium sp. has been reported on C. sanguinea (2). Herbarium specimens of this disease are available at AGROINNOVA Collection, University of Torino, Italy.
References: (1) T. Kobayashi. Index of Fungi Inhabiting Woody Plants in Japan. Host, Distribution, and Literature. Zenkoku-Noson-Kyoikai Publishing Co., Ltd., Tokyo, 2007. (2) G. Sicoli et al. Inf. Agrario 56/48:84, 2000. (3) V. L. Smith. Plant Dis. 83:782, 1999.