Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) has recently become popular as a potted ornamental plant in Italy. During the spring 1999, a sudden wilt of 120 day-old plants was observed in the Albenga region of Northern Italy, an area of intensive floriculture production. Initial symptoms included stem necrosis at the soil line and yellowing and tan discoloration of leaves. As stem necrosis progressed, infected plants wilted and died. Necrotic tissues resulted, covered with whitish mycelium that produced dark, spherical (2- to 6-mm diameter) sclerotia. Sclerotinia sclerotiorum was consistently recovered from symptomatic stem sections surface disinfested 1 min in 1% NaOCl and plated on potato dextrose agar (PDA), amended with 100 ppm streptomycin sulfate. Pathogenicity of three isolates was confirmed by inoculating 90-day-old pot marigold plants grown in containers. Inoculum that consisted of wheat kernels infested with mycelium and sclerotia was placed on the soil surface around the base of previously wounded or non-wounded plants. Non-inoculated plants served as controls. All plants were kept outdoors where temperatures ranged between 8 and 16°C, under 50% shade and were maintained moist. Inoculated plants developed symptoms of leaf yellowing, followed by wilt within 7 days, while control plants remained symptomless. Sclerotia developed on infected tissues and S. sclerotiorum was reisolated from inoculated plants. This is the first report of stem blight of C. officinalis caused by S. sclerotiorum in Europe. The disease was previously observed in the United States (1).
Reference: (1) D. F. Farr et al. 1989. Fungi on Plants and Plant Products in the United States. American Phytopathological Society, St. Paul, MN.