Tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) is regarded as the national flower of China and is cultivated throughout the country. In early August 2010, a moderately severe leaf spot was observed on tree peony cultivated in a garden of Zhengzhou, Henan Province, where approximately 15% of trees were diseased. In 2011, a less damaging leaf spot was also observed in another area of the city with approximately 10% of trees diseased. Early symptoms appeared as small, round, pale-brown lesions on the leaves. Lesions expanded into 5- to 20-mm-diameter spots that were elliptical or irregular, brown to dark brown. A fungus was consistently isolated from the leaf spots on potato dextrose agar (PDA) in grey-black colonies, but produced few pycnidia. Black pycnidia were ostiolate, globose, papillate, formed in uniloculate or multiloculate stromata that were immersed in the leaf, and became erumpent at maturity. Conidiophores or conidiogenous cells were hyaline and cylindrical. Conidia were hyaline, granular, fusoid to ellipsoid, aseptate, with a sub-truncate base, and 20 to 28 × 4.5 to 7.5 μm (mean dimensions of 50 conidia: 24.5 × 5.2 μm). The pathogen was identified as Fusicoccum aesculi, anamorphic stage of Botryosphaeria dothidea, on the basis of morphology (2). The identity of the fungus was confirmed to be F. aesculi by DNA sequence analysis of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region (GenBank Accession No. JQ323001), which was 100% identical to those of other F. aesculi isolates (GenBank Accession Nos. GU997686.1 and GU723469.1) (1). Pathogenicity tests were done by inoculating each of 10 leaves on one 7-year-old tree with a mycelial plug (0.5 cm diameter) harvested from the periphery of a 7-day-old colony. An equal number of leaves on the same tree, serving as controls, were mock-inoculated with plugs of PDA medium. Inoculated leaves were covered with plastic for 24 h to maintain high relative humidity and incubated at about 25°C. The plugs were removed after 48 h. After 7 days, 80% of the inoculated leaves showed symptoms identical to those observed in the field under natural conditions, whereas controls remained symptom-free. Reisolation of the fungus from lesions on inoculated leaves confirmed that the causal agent was F. aesculi. Pathogenicity tests were repeated on the other two trees by the same methods with the same results. To our knowledge, this is the first report of F. aesculi infecting P. suffruticosa in China.
References: (1) S. Mohali et al. Mycol. Res. 110:405, 2006. (2) B. C. Sutton. The Coelomycetes. CABI Publishing, New York, 1980.