Fuchsia is a genus of flowering plants that is native to South America and New Zealand and belongs to the family Onagraceae. In September 2011, 2-year-old potted plants of Fuchsia × hybrida, cv. Citation, in a garden located near Biella (northern Italy) showed signs and symptoms of a previously unknown disease. Typically, infected plants showed leaf chlorosis followed by the appearance of necrosis on the adaxial leaf surfaces, while the abaxial surfaces showed orange uredinia irregularly distributed. As the disease progressed, infected leaves turned yellow and wilted. Affected plants showed a progressive phylloptosis and also flowering was negatively affected. Urediniospores were globose, yellow to orange, and measured 14.6 to 25.9 (average 19.6) μm. Teliospores were not observed. Morphological characteristics of the fungus corresponded to those of the genus Pucciniastrum. DNA extraction and PCR amplification were carried out with Terra PCR Direct Polymerase Mix (Clontech, Saint Germain-en-Laye, France) and primers ITS1/ITS4 (4). A 700-bp PCR product was sequenced and a BLASTn search (1) confirmed that the sequence corresponded with a 96% identity to Pucciniastrum circaeae. The nucleotide sequence has been assigned the GenBank Accession No. JQ029688. Pathogenicity tests were performed by spraying leaves of healthy 1-year-old potted Fuchsia × hybrida plants with an aqueous suspension of 1 × 103 urediniospores ml–1. The inoculum was obtained from infected leaves. Plants sprayed only with water served as controls. Three plants were used for each treatment. Plants were covered with plastic bags for 4 days after inoculation and maintained outdoors at temperatures ranging between 18 and 25°C. Lesions developed on leaves 20 days after inoculation with the urediniospore suspension, showing the same symptoms as the original plants, whereas control plants remained healthy. The organism that was recovered from the lesions after inoculation was the same as the one obtained from the diseased plants. The pathogenicity test was carried out twice with similar results. The presence of P. fuchsiae, later identified as P. epilobii, was repeatedly reported in the United States (3). P. epilobii and P. circaeae have closely related hosts and morphologically similar urediniospores. These species were reported to form a single group in molecular phylogenetic trees (2). This is, to our knowledge, the first report of P. circaeae on Fuchsia × hybrida in Italy.
References: (1) S. F. Altschul et al. Nucleic Acids Res. 25:3389, 1997 (2) Y. M. Liang et al. Mycoscience 47:137, 2006. (3) L. B. Loring and L. F. Roth. Plant Dis. Rep. 48:99, 1964. (4) T. J. White et al. PCR Protocols: A Guide to Methods and Applications. M. A. Innis et al., eds. Academic Press, San Diego, 1990.