Chinese fringe flower is a popular landscape plant in California for its red evergreen foliage and its showy red flowers in the spring. In April 2007, a sample was submitted to the California Department of Food and Agriculture diagnostic laboratory from Sacramento County as part of an inspection of a nursery for Phytophthora ramorum. A sample was taken from Loropetalum chinense because the inspector noticed very small spots and defoliation in the crop, even though P. ramorum was not detected in previous samples sent to the lab with similar symptoms. Six 5-mm2 pieces of the leaves were placed on CMA-PARP (1) medium as part of our standard nursery screening, even though no lesions were seen. An organism with coralloid coenocytic hyphae, chlamydospores, and ellipsoidal semi-papillate sporangia matching the description of P. ramorum (2) grew into a snowflake-shaped colony from two pieces. On closer inspection of the leaves, small green lesions of approximately 3 to 5 mm wide were visible, especially when the leaves were backlit. For sporangial production, a 6-mm plug was transferred from the colony margin of the isolate onto V8 juice agar (V8). Sporangia, produced on V8 plugs incubated in dH20 for 2 days, were from 41 to 61 × 23 to 32 μm (48.7 × 29.3 μm average) with a length to breadth ratio from 1.3 to 2.0 (average 1.7). Chlamydospores on CMA-PARP were 36.7 to 60.1 μm (49.1 μm diameter average). From 2008 to 2011, similar symptoms were found on L. chinense from Contra Costa, San Joaquin, and Los Angeles Counties. The same organism was isolated from these infected plants. To confirm pathogenicity on L. chinense, five nursery-grown plants in 3.78-L pots were inoculated with three isolates each. Plants were inoculated with 6-mm plugs taken from the margin of a 7- to 10-day old culture grown on V8. Plant leaves were wounded with a sterile pushpin and two colonized plugs were covered with a freezer tube cap filled with sterile dH2O and attached to the underside of the leaves with a sterile pin-curl clip (4). Inoculated plants were sprayed with water, covered with plastic bags, and incubated for 2 days, when bags and plugs were removed. Four leaves per isolate were inoculated on each plant and four leaves per plant were treated similarly with uncolonized V8 plugs as a control. Plants were incubated for 12 to 14 days at 18°C (16-h photoperiod) when lesions were visible and some of the leaves began to abscise. P. ramorum grew from each lesion produced on inoculated leaves and no Phytophthora spp. grew from the control leaves when isolated onto CMA-PARP. Inoculations were repeated with similar results. The internal transcribed spacer region (ITS) of rDNA was amplified and sequenced from the isolates using ITS1 and ITS4 primers as described by White et al. (3). BLAST analysis of the sequenced amplicons (GenBank JQ361743 through JQ361745) showed 100% identity with the ITS sequence of P. ramorum (GenBank AY594198). P. ramorum is a quarantine pathogen with many hosts (2,4). Leaf spots on L. chinense caused by P. ramorum are inconspicuous and missing this disease during nursery inspections could lead to unintended spread to neighboring host plants.
References: (1) S. N. Jeffers and S. B. Martin. Plant Dis. 70:1038, 1986. (2) S. Werres et al. Mycol. Res. 105:1155, 2001. (3) T. J. White et al. Page 315 in: PCR Protocols. A Guide to Methods and Applications. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, 1990. (4) L. E. Yakabe et al. Plant Dis. 93:883, 2009.