Widely cultivated commercially, Iresine herbstii Hook is a potted herbaceous plant popular for its foliage, which varies from a dark red to brownish maroon. In the summer of 2010, a sudden wilt of I. herbstii plants was observed at a recreational farm in Taipei City in northern Taiwan. The initial symptoms were water-soaked lesions that became soft and then rotted. Necrotic areas on the stems were covered with fans of white mycelium as well as abundant spherical, brown sclerotia. A fungus was isolated from both infected tissue and sclerotia and maintained on potato dextrose agar (PDA) plates incubated at 25°C without light. Colonies were white and cottony, often forming mycelial fans. Pure cultures were prepared by transferring single hyphal tips to PDA. Sclerotia formed after 7 days. Sclerotia were initially white becoming dark brown with age and were 0.8 to 1 mm in diameter at maturity. These are typical features of Sclerotium rolfsii. Koch's postulates were performed by inoculating five healthy, potted I. herbstii plants with 10 fresh sclerotia placed on the soil surface around the base of each plant. In a second test, five healthy potted plants were inoculated with a single 10-mm-diameter mycelial agar plug placed at the stem base of each plant. Five noninoculated plants served as controls. All plants were incubated in a growth chamber at 25 to 35°C. Basal stem rot and wilt developed within 4 days on plants inoculated with sclerotia or mycelial plugs. All plants were dead by 7 days after inoculation whereas the controls remained healthy. The fungus was reisolated from the symptomatic tissue and produced sclerotia and mycelium consistent with S. rolfsii. To confirm identity of the causal fungus, the complete internal transcribed spacer (ITS) rDNA region of the causal fungus was amplified using the primers ITS4 and ITS5 (3) and sequenced. The resulting sequence of 687 bp was uploaded in NCBI (Accession No. JN543691.1). The sequence was 98% similar to sequences of Athelia rolfsii (anamoprh S. rolfsii). This disease has been observed on many species of plants (1, 2). To our knowledge, this is the first report of I. herbstii caused by S. rolfsii in Taiwan or any other part of the world.
References: (1) T. T. Chang. Bull. Taiwan For. Res. Inst. 9:191, 1994. (2) Y. N. Wang et al. J. Exp. For. Nat. Taiwan Univ. 20:45, 2006. (3) T. J. White et al. PCR Protocols: A Guide to Methods and Applications. Academic Press, San Diego, 1990.