The genus Acanthus (Acanthaceae) includes ~30 herbaceous, perennial species grown for their attractive foliage and flower spikes. Between June and December 2009 the CDFA Plant Pest Diagnostics Lab in Sacramento, CA received multiple leaf spot disease samples on Acanthus spinosus and A. mollis, commonly known as bear's breeches. Samples were collected four times from two nurseries in Santa Barbara County. Disease was observed in nearly 100% of the plants inspected. Leaf spots were brown, roundish to elliptical, and 1 to 4 mm in diameter. Older spots often developed grayish centers and often coalesced, leading to large necrotic areas. Conidiophores were fasciculate, amphigenous, light brown to olivaceous, multiseptate, geniculate, and had distinctive spore scars. Conidia were hyaline, straight to slightly curved with tapered tips and truncate bases. Conidia were solitary, multiseptate (1 to 10) and 48 to 160 × 2.5 to 5 μm (average 100 × 3.9 μm). Colonies obtained from single conidial isolates were established on acidified potato dextrose agar (APDA). Morphologically, the causal agent was identified as Cercospora diantherae Ellis and Kellerm (1), a species synonymous with C. apii sensu lato (2). The C. apii sensu lato complex includes three morphologically similar taxa, C. apii, C. beticola, and C. apiicola (3). Sequence analysis of the internal transcribed spacer region from the Acanthus isolate confirmed it belongs to the C. apii complex (GenBank HQ328503). Multiplex PCR to distinguish species within the complex was also performed on the isolate (3). A 176-bp fragment was only observed in the PCR reaction containing the C. beticola primers. To confirm pathogenicity, hyphal suspensions were used to inoculate healthy leaves of A. mollis plants potted in 3.7-liter containers. Hyphal suspensions were obtained by grinding 3-week-old colonies grown on APDA with distilled water using a mortar and pestle. Both sides of healthy leaves and petioles were sprayed with ~40 ml of the suspension. Five plants were inoculated with C. beticola and five plants were sprayed with sterile water. Plants were incubated in a dew chamber for 48 h and then transferred to a 25°C growth chamber with a 12-h photoperiod. The experiment was repeated. Five days after inoculation, small necrotic leaf spots developed on the leaves. After 14 days, the spots had enlarged and the leaves began to turn yellow. Over time, the spots coalesced leading to large necrotic areas, especially along the leaf margins. Petiole spots, not seen on field samples, were seen on laboratory inoculated plants. Sporulation of C. beticola occurred within most of the spots and the pathogen was successfully reisolated from all inoculated leaves. No foliar symptoms developed on any of the control plants. Worldwide, C. beticola is a destructive pathogen of sugar beet (4), and has also been reported on a number of other plant hosts (3). To our knowledge, this is the first report of C. beticola causing a leaf spot disease on a host in the Acanthaceae family. This strain has been deposited into the culture collection at Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures.
References: (1) C. Chupp. A Monograph of the Fungus Genus Cercospora. Ithaca, N.Y., 1953. (2) P. W. Crous and U. Braun. Mycosphaerella and Its Anamorphs 1: Names Published in Cercospora and Passalora. CBS, Utrecht, the Netherlands, 2003. (3) M. Groenwald et al. Mycologia 98:275, 2006. (4) W. W. Shane and P. S. Teng. Plant Dis. 76:812, 1992.
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