In October 2000, chrysanthemums (Dendranthema × grandiflorum) cv. Debonair exhibiting blossom blight were submitted to the Plant Diagnostic Lab at Auburn University by a commercial greenhouse where most of the potted plants of this cultivar were symptomatic. At a local retail outlet, approximately 95% of the plants of the same cultivar of chrysanthemum had a similar blossom blight. Blighted petals were examined microscopically, and nonpapillate, internally proliferating sporangia (40 to 45 μm in length), characteristic of some species of Phytophthora, were observed. A species of Phytophthora was isolated repeatedly on PARP selective medium (corn meal agar containing pimaricin, ampicillin, rifamycin, and pentachloronitrobenzene). Isolates recovered were grown on V8 juice agar, under fluorescent lights and in darkness, at room temperature. These isolates were identified as Phytophthora nicotianae (= Phytophthora parasitica), on the basis of morphological and cultural characteristics. Sporangia were papillate (including some with dual apices), noncaducous, 45 to 60 μm in length, and spherical, ovoid, or obpyriform. Mycelium growth occurred at 36°C. Isolates were considered heterothallic because they did not produce oospores when grown on V8 juice agar in the dark for 2 weeks. Sporangia that were nonpapillate and proliferating internally were not observed on any of these isolates. Because we apparently did not isolate the Phytophthora spp. seen microscopically on petals, we cannot comment on its exact identity or significance in causing this disease. We did conduct pathogenicity tests to determine whether isolates of P. nicotianae were capable of causing the observed symptoms. These tests were conducted twice on chrysanthemum cultivars Debonair, Yellow Triumph, Spotlight, Raquel, Jennifer, Grace, and Hot Salsa. In the first test, two plants of each cultivar were sprayed to runoff with a zoospore suspension (105 spores per ml) in sterile, filtered water. Two plants of each cultivar were sprayed with sterile, filtered water as noninoculated controls. Individual plants were placed in loosely closed plastic bags, misted daily, and held at 23 to 24°C with indirect lighting (approximately 12 h per day) for 1 week. In the second test, four plants of each cultivar except Debonair were inoculated as described previously, four plants of each cultivar were left untreated as noninoculated controls, and one Debonair plant was inoculated and one remained noninoculated. Plants were held for 3 days in an environmentally controlled growth room, with 23°C days (11 h)-20°C nights (13 h), under a plastic tent where high levels of humidity were maintained with a humidifier and daily misting. A grow light provided a low level of lighting (4 to 6 μE · m-2 · s-1). All inoculated plants developed severe blossom blight similar to that observed initially. In the first test, symptoms were evident at 2 days. In the growth room, blossom blight first was observed at 24 h postinoculation. In both tests, blossom blight severity increased quickly in the 1 to 2 days after the initial occurrence of symptoms. Only blossoms became diseased; symptoms did not extend to other plant organs. P. nicotianae was reisolated consistently from symptomatic blossoms on selective medium. This is, we believe, the first report of blossom blight on chrysanthemum caused by a species of Phytophthora. Previously, P. nicotianae has been reported to cause leaf blight on artificially inoculated Chrysanthemum × morifolium (Dendranthema × grandiflorum) cultivars Capri and Vermilion in Florida (1) and twig and leaf blight on Chrysanthemum coronarium in India (2).
References: (1) C. R. Semer and B. C. Raju. Plant Dis. 69:1005--1006, 1985. (2) N. Sushma and N. D. Sharma. J. Mycol. Plant Pathol. 27:345, 1997.