E. K. Ligoxigakis, Laboratory of Plant Pathology, Plant Protection Institute of Heraklion, National Agricultural Research Foundation, Heraklion 71003, Crete, Greece;
I. A. Papaioannou, Department of Genetics & Biotechnology, Faculty of Biology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Panepistimiopolis, Athens 15701, Greece;
E. A. Markakis, Laboratory of Plant Pathology, School of Agricultural Technology, Technological Educational Institute of Crete, Heraklion 71004, Crete, Greece; and
M. A. Typas, Department of Genetics & Biotechnology, Faculty of Biology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Panepistimiopolis, Athens 15701, Greece
A disease resembling pink rot was first observed on Phoenix dactylifera in Heraklion (Crete, Greece) in the summer of 2007, and was later found to be relatively common in the same district on additional species (P. canariensis, P. theophrasti, Washingtonia filifera, W. robusta). Symptoms included chlorotic and necrotic leaves (dead tips), light-brown spots (1 to 2 mm in diameter) on the leaves and rachis, rot of the rachis, sheath, and trunk, and eventual death of infected plants. A pinkish-orange layer formed both on the surface and within the infected tissues. A hyphomycete was isolated from symptomatic petioles and the pinkish-orange layer of the sheath. Sixteen isolates were examined on potato dextrose agar (PDA). All formed salmon to grayish-red colonies with sparse aerial mycelium, hyaline conidiophores with penicillate branches and terminal phialides, and ovoid, single-celled conidia in long chains. Mean conidial dimensions were 3.5 (± 0.1) × 5.5 (± 0.1) μm (n = 60 each), for 1-week-old cultures of two single-spore isolates recovered from W. filifera. A BLASTn search of GenBank with sequences of rDNA ITS (JX456472 to JX456474) revealed 100% identity of three isolates to that of Nalanthamala vermoesenii (Biourge) Schroers, comb. nov. [syn. Penicillium vermoesenii Biourge; Gliocladium vermoesenii (Biourge) Thom] originating from several palm species in Spain, the Czech Republic, Australia, and the United States (GenBank AY554212 to AY554217). Therefore, our examination of morphological and molecular characteristics suggested that the fungus recovered from symptomatic trees was N. vermoesenii (3,4). Pathogenicity tests were performed on wounds (shallow cuts 0.5 to 1.0 cm wide, made parallel to the surface with a sterile scalpel) of petioles of mature leaves of eight 2-year-old seedlings each of P. canariensis, P. theophrasti, and W. filifera. A 6-mm agar plug from a 1-week-old PDA culture was placed on the artificial wound of each inoculated plant. For non-inoculated controls, sterile PDA plugs were placed on the artificial wounds of four seedlings per host. All plants were maintained in the greenhouse at 16 ± 5°C, with 95% humidity and a 12-h photoperiod. Petiole and stem rot, leaf necrosis, and production of pinkish-orange spore masses appeared at 5 weeks post-inoculation. Average lesion length was 2.75 ± 0.15, 3.28 ± 0.21, and 6.14 ± 0.53 cm for P. canariensis, P. theophrasti, and W. filifera, respectively, suggesting that the latter is more susceptible. The fungus was consistently reisolated from all three inoculated palm species, whereas no symptoms appeared on control plants. To our knowledge, this is the first report of N. vermoesenii infecting palms in Greece. The invasion of the plants by the fungus is probably favored by wounds, such as those caused by pruning or by feeding of the red palm wheevil Rhynchophorus ferrugineus Olivier, which is widespread in Greece (1).
References: (1) D. C. Kontodimas et al. Entomol. Hellenica 16:11, 2006. (2) M. P. Pantou et al. Mycol. Res. 109:889, 2005. (3) H.-J. Schroers et al. Mycologia 97:375, 2005. (4) J. Y. Uchida. Page 25 in: Compendium of Ornamental Palm Diseases and Disorders, APS Press, St. Paul, MN, USA, 2004.