The genus Viburnum comprises over 150 species of shrubs and small trees such as Laurustinus (Viburnum tinus L.), which is one of the most widely used ornamental plants in private and public gardens. Furthermore, it commonly forms stands of natural woodland in the Mediterranean area. In autumn 2012, a survey was conducted to determine the presence of Phytophthora ramorum on Viburnum in commercial nurseries in the Latium region where wilting, dieback, and death of twigs were observed on 30% of the Laurustinus plants. A Phytophthora species was consistently recovered from soil rich in feeder roots from potted Laurustinus plants showing symptoms. Soil samples were baited with rhododendron leaves. Small pieces of leaf tissue cut from the margin of lesions were plated on P5ARPH selective medium (4). Pure cultures, obtained by single-hypha transfers on potato dextrose agar (PDA), were petaloid. Sporangia formation was induced on pepper seeds (3). Sporangia were almost spherical, ovoid or obpyriform, non-papillate and non-caducous, measuring 36.6 to 71.4 × 33.4 to 48.3 μm (average 53.3 × 37.4 μm) with a length/width ratio of 1.4. Chlamydospores were terminal and 25.2 to 37.9 μm in diameter. Isolates were considered heterothallic because they did not produce gametangia in culture or on the host. All isolates examined had 30 to 35°C as optimum temperatures. Based on these morphological characteristics, the isolates were identified as Phytophthora hydropathica (2). Morphological identification was confirmed by internal transcribed spacer (ITS), and mitochondrial partial cytochrome oxidase subunit 2 (CoxII) with BLAST analysis in the NCBI database revealing 99% identity with ITS and 100% identity with CoxII. The sequences of the three isolates AB234, AB235, and AB236 were deposited in European Nucleotide Archive (ENA) with the accession nos. HG934148, HG934149, and HG934150 for ITS and HG934151, HG934152, and HG934153 for CoxII, respectively. Pathogenicity tests were conducted in the greenhouse on a total of six 1-year-old shoots cut from V. tinus plants with two inoculation points each. Mycelial plugs cut from the margins of actively growing 8-day-old cultures on PDA were inserted through the epidermis into the phloem. Controls were treated as described above except that sterile PDA plugs replaced the inoculum. Shoots were incubated in test tubes with sterile water in the dark at 24 ± 2°C. After 2 weeks, lesions were evident at the inoculation points and symptoms were similar to those caused by natural infection. P. hydropathica was consistently re-isolated from the margin of lesions, while controls remained symptomless. In the United States in 2008, P. hydropathica was described as spreading from irrigation water to Rhododendron catawbiense and Kalmia latifolia (2). This pathogen can also attack several other horticultural crops (1), but to our knowledge, this is the first report of P. hydropathica causing wilting and shoot dieback on V. tinus.
References: (1) C. X. Hong et al. Plant Dis. 92:1201, 2008. (2) C. X. Hong et al. Plant Pathol. 59:913, 2010. (3) E. Ilieva et al. Eur. J. Plant Path. 101:623, 1995. (4) S. N. Jeffers and S. B. Martin. Plant Dis. 70:1038, 1986.
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