Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria) is an herbaceous plant belonging to the Scrophulariaceae family. It has alternate, simple leaves on stiffly, erect, green stems. Flowers are yellow or white, borne in summer through fall, and is increasingly used in gardens in low-maintenance borders. During the fall of 2009, 4-month-old plants grown in a greenhouse near Torino (northern Italy) showed signs and symptoms of an unknown powdery mildew. The adaxial leaf surfaces were covered with white mycelia and conidia, while the abaxial surfaces were less infected. As the disease progressed, infected leaves turned yellow and wilted. Mycelia were also observed on stems, petioles, and flower calyxes of inflorescences. Powdery mildew was observed on moth mullein naturally diffused in Italian flora and on V. blattaria var albiflorum cv. White Blush. The same symptoms and signs were observed in summer 2010 on V. blattaria plants grown in a garden near Biella. Conidia were hyaline, elliptical, borne in short chains (as many as five conidia per chain), and measured 35 × 22 (29 to 42 × 19 to 24) μm. Conidiophores were erect with a cylindrical foot cell measuring 147 × 11 (93 to 177 × 10 to 12) μm, followed by one to two shorter cells measuring 23 × 11 (15 to 33 × 10 to 12) μm. Fibrosin bodies were absent. Chasmothecia were not observed in the collected samples. The internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of rDNA was amplified using the primers ITS4/ITS6 and sequenced (1) (GenBank Accession No. HQ316555). The 542-bp amplicon had 99% homology with the sequence of Golovinomyces cichoracearum (GenBank Accession No. EU819552. Pathogenicity was confirmed through inoculation by gently pressing diseased leaves onto leaves of healthy V. blattaria plants. Five plants were inoculated, while the same number of noninoculated plants served as a control. Plants were maintained at temperatures from 19 to 25°C. Fifteen days after inoculation, symptoms and signs of powdery mildew developed on inoculated plants. The conidial morphology of the powdery mildew fungus that developed on inoculated plants was identical to the conidial morphology observed in the original fungus. Noninoculated plants remained healthy. The pathogenicity test was carried out twice. G. cichoracearum, formerly Erysiphe verbasci (synonym E. cichoracearum), has been reported on V. blattaria in Hungary, Romania, and the former USSR (2,3). In conclusion, to our knowledge, it is the first report of G. cichoracearum affecting moth mullein in northern Italy. The economic importance of this disease is at present limited in Italy because of limited planting of this host. However, the ecological characteristics and flowering of V. blattaria make it interesting for low-maintenance gardens.
References: (1) S. F. Altschul et al. Nucleic Acids Res. 25:3389, 1997. (2) K. Amano. Host Range and Geographical Distribution of the Powdery Mildew Fungi. Japan Scientific Societies Press. Tokyo, 1986. (3) U. Braun. The Powdery Mildews (Erysiphales) of Europe. Gustav Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart, Germany, 1995.
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