Aquilegia flabellata Sieb. and Zucc. (columbine) is a perennial garden species belonging to the family Ranunculaceae. During the summer of 2003, a severe outbreak of a previously unknown powdery mildew was observed in several gardens near Biella (northern Italy). Upper surfaces of leaves were covered with a white mycelium and conidia, and as the disease progressed infected leaves turned yellow and died. Foot cell was cylindric and appressorium lobed. Conidia were hyaline, ellipsoid, and measured 31.2 to 47.5 × 14.4 to 33 μm (average 38.6 × 21.6 μm). Fibrosin bodies were not present. Cleistothecia were globose, brown, had simple appendages, ranged from 82 to 127 (average 105) μm in diameter, and contained one to two asci. Ascocarp appendages measured five to eight times the ascocarp diameter. Asci were cylindrical (ovoidal) and measured 45.3 to 58.2 × 30.4 to 40.2 μm. Ascospores (three to four per ascus) were ellipsoid or cylindrical and measured 28.3 to 31.0 × 14.0 to 15.0 μ;m. On the basis of its morphology, the pathogen was identified as Erysiphe aquilegiae var. aquilegiae (1). Pathogenicity was confirmed by gently pressing diseased leaves onto leaves of five, healthy A. flabellata plants. Five noninoculated plants served as controls. Inoculated and noninoculated plants were maintained in a garden where temperatures ranged between 20 and 30°C. After 10 days, typical powdery mildew symptoms developed on inoculated plants. Noninoculated plants did not show symptoms. To our knowledge, this is the first report of the presence of powdery mildew on Aquilegia flabellata in Italy. E. communis (Wallr.) Link and E. polygoni DC. were reported on several species of Aquilegia in the United States (2), while E. aquilegiae var. aquilegiae was previously observed on A. flabellata in Japan and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (3). Specimens of this disease are available at the DIVAPRA Collection at the University of Torino.
References: (1) U. Braun. Nova Hedwigia, 89:700, 1987. (2) D. F. Farr et al. Fungi on Plants and Plant Products in the United States. The American Phytopathological Society, St Paul, MN, 1989. (3) K. Hirata. Host Range and Geographical Distribution of the Powdery Mildews. Faculty of Agriculture, Niigata University, 1966.