First and second authors: Department of Plant Pathology, Iowa State University, Ames 50011; and third author: Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences, University of Hawaii, Honolulu 96822
Ceratocystis fimbriata is a complex of many cryptic, host-specialized species that causes wilt and canker of woody species and rot diseases of storage roots and corms of many economically important plants worldwide. With the exception of the family Araceae, all confirmed hosts of C. fimbriata are dicotyledonous plants. We hypothesized that the isolates from members of the family Araceae would form a monophyletic lineage specialized to infect these unique hosts. Analyses of sequences of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of nuclear rDNA indicate that isolates and herbarium specimens of C. fimbriata from the family Araceae represent three different groups: an Xanthosoma/Syngonium group on corms of Xanthosoma spp. from the Caribbean region and on ornamental S. podophyllum from greenhouses in Florida, Hawaii, Australia, and Brazil; an inhame group on corms of Colocasia esculenta in Brazil; and a distantly related taro group on Colocasia esculenta in Hawaii and China and on X. sagittifolium in Fiji. Inoculations of three species of Araceae (Caladium bicolor, S. podophyllum, and Colocasia esculenta) showed that isolates from all three groups are pathogenic to these three hosts. Brazilian isolates from Mangifera indica and Ficus carica were only weakly pathogenic to Caladium and Syngonium sp. and were not pathogenic to Colocasia sp. Syngonium plants appeared to be most susceptible to isolates of the Xanthosoma/Syngonium group, and Colocasia plants were least susceptible to isolates from Syngonium spp. Thus, it appears that adaptations to the family Araceae have evolved more than once in the C. fimbriata complex. It is hypothesized that the three groups of C. fimbriata on the family Araceae are native to the Caribbean, Brazil, and Asia, respectively, but they have been spread elsewhere by humans.