Infections by Puccinia psidii Winter were detected on Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) Blake (paperbark, tea tree) during a regular inspection of a San Diego, California nursery in November 2010 by San Diego County inspectors. Urediniospore morphology, production of bright-yellow uredinia on both upper and lower leaf surfaces, DNA sequencing, and inoculation tests confirm the identity of the pathogen. From digital image analysis, dimensions of 49 urediniospores from the paperbark rust collection were 25 (19 to 30) × 21 (18 to 23) μm, typical of uredinia of P. psidii (3). Some urediniospores also had a distinctive, unornamented “tonsure” near the base, and all pustules lacked teliospores. Both latter features are considered by some (3) as more typical of an asexual sub-taxon, Uredo rangelii Simpson, Tho., Grgur. which however, has narrower urediniospores than we report. U. rangelii is also considered less of a threat to Eucalyptus than other variants of P. psidii in the broad sense (1). The 627-bp DNA sequence of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of the paperbark rust (GenBank Accession No. JF960255) obtained by John Hanna at the USDA Forest Service, Forestry Sciences Lab, Moscow, ID using PCR and ITS1/ITS4 primers had over 99% identity with 18 GenBank sequences of P. psidii from diverse Myrtaceae, including Melaleuca, Psidium, and Eucalyptus. In January and February of 2011, inoculations of 7- to 10-cm cuttings of active terminal growth demonstrated pathogenicity to the three species of Myrtaceae that were tested: paperbark, common myrtle Myrtus communis L., and brush cherry Syzygium australe (J.C. Wendl. ex Link) B. Hyland (=Eugenia australis, =E. myrtifolia) cv. Monterey Bay. Uredinia developed within 10 days of inoculation on inoculated host cuttings. Proportions of cuttings infected for paperbark, common myrtle, and brush cherry were 5 of 7, 6 of 6, and 1 of 6, respectively; pustules were most abundant on common myrtle and least abundant (a single pustule) on brush cherry. Similarly treated control cuttings were not infected. P. psidii has previously caused severe outbreaks on paperbark in Florida (2). California interceptions and nursery detections of P. psidii are recorded in the California Department of Food and Agriculture's internal, unpublished, Pest Detection Database, have all occurred since 2003, and include Florida sources. From the Database, detections on materials shipped into California nurseries have been: brush cherry from Florida, March and April, 2004 at Valley Center, CA; allspice (Pimenta dioica (L) Merr.) from Florida, June 2005 at Gilroy, CA; and Java apple/rose apple (Syzygium samarangense [Blume] Merr. & L.M. Perry [= Eugenia javanica Lam.]) from Hawaii, 2008 at Anaheim, CA. Other California nursery infestations have been: brush cherry, April 2004, at Valley Center, CA; pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa Solander ex J. Gaertner), July 2007 at Bonsall, CA; and common myrtle, November 2008 at Fallbrook, CA. The rust has not been reported in California on any plants outside of nursery settings or on Eucalyptus in any setting. The current strains of P. psidii in California appear likely to remain a recurrent problem for ornamental plant and foliage crops in the myrtle family grown in some nursery settings.
References: (1) A. J. Carnegie et al. Australas. Plant Pathol. 39:463, 2010. (2) M. B. Rayachhetry et al. Biol. Control 22:38, 2001. (3) J. A. Simpson et al. Australas. Plant Pathology 35:549, 2006.