K. C. Eastwell, Washington State University Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center and Department of Plant Pathology, Prosser 99350;
L. J. du Toit, Washington State University Northwest Research and Extension Center and Department of Plant Pathology, Mt. Vernon 98273; and
K. L. Druffel, Department of Plant Pathology, Washington State University, Pullman 99164
Symptoms of ‘black death’ were observed on Helleborus spp. in each of three independent nurseries from across the United States. A new virus of the genus Carlavirus was identified in association with this disease. Symptomatic plants contained curved, rod-shaped particles averaging 800 by 17 nm, and yielded predominant bands of double-stranded (ds)RNA corresponding to approximately 9.0, 2.6, and 1.7 kbp. Amplification with degenerate primers for carlaviruses yielded a product of approximately 3,000 bp from diseased plants. Complete genomic sequences of two virus isolates were determined. Particle size, dsRNA patterns, genome organization, and sequence were consistent with members of the family Flexiviridae, genus Carlavirus. The name Helleborus net necrosis virus (HeNNV) is proposed for the virus associated with black death of Helleborus spp. in the United States. The sequence of the 3′ terminus of Helleborus mosaic virus (HeMV) (genus Carlavirus) was also determined. Nucleotide sequences of HeNNV and HeMV were only 49% identical, revealing the distinct nature of these viruses. Assays for other viruses failed to reveal a consistent association of any other virus with black death symptoms. Cucumber mosaic virus was detected in hellebore specimens both with and without distinct black death symptoms.