Melia azedarach L., called chinaberry, is native to Southeast Asia and Australia. The trees are commonly planted as ornamentals in the southern part of Korea. In October 2010, a leaf spot disease was observed on trees for the first time in Wando, Korea. Further surveys conducted from 2010 to 2012 showed that the disease occurs on trees in Jeju, Seogwipo, and Tongyeong cities as well as Wando county with nearly 100% incidence. Leaf spots were circular to semicircular, later becoming angular, small, pale brown in the center with a dark brown margin, and later becoming milky white. Leaf spots sometimes coalesced to blight the entire leaf and were capable of rapidly defoliating whole trees in late September. Fruiting was amphigenous, but mostly hypogenous. Stromata were substomatal, globular, dark brown, and 25 to 70 μm in diameter. Conidiophores were densely fasciculate, pale olivaceous to pale brown, substraight to mildly curved, not geniculate, 10 to 30 μm long, 2.5 to 4.5 μm wide, and aseptate or uniseptate. Conidia were pale olivaceous, generally darker than conidiophores, cylindric to obclavate, substraight in shorter ones, curved to mildly sinuous in longer ones, obconically truncate at the base, obtuse at the apex, 2- to 14-septate, 16 to 120 × 3 to 5 μm, guttulate, and had inconspicuous hila. Morphological characteristics of the fungus were consistent with the previous descriptions of Pseudocercospora subsessilis (Syd. & P. Syd.) Deighton (2). Voucher specimens (n = 6) were deposited in the Korea University Herbarium (KUS). An isolate from KUS-F25395 was deposited in the Korean Agricultural Culture Collection (KACC45688). The complete internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of rDNA was amplified with the primers ITS1/ITS4 (3) and sequenced. The resulting sequence of 517 bp was deposited in GenBank (Accession No. JX993904). A BLAST search in GenBank revealed that the sequence shows >99% similarity (1 bp substitution) with a sequence of P. subsessilis ex M. azedarach from Cuba (GU269815). For pathogenicity tests, hyphal suspensions were prepared by grinding 3-week-old colonies grown on potato dextrose agar with distilled water using a mortar and pestle. Five 3-year-old chinaberry trees were inoculated with hyphal suspensions using a fine haired paint brush. Three healthy trees of the same age, serving as controls, were sprayed with sterile water. The plants were covered with plastic bags to maintain 100% relative humidity for 24 h and then transferred to a greenhouse. Typical symptoms of necrotic spots that appeared on the inoculated leaves 10 days after inoculation were identical to the ones observed in the field. P. subsessilis was reisolated from symptomatic leaf tissues, confirming Koch's postulates. No symptoms were observed on control plants. The disease has been reported in several Asian countries as well as in Cuba and the United States (1). To our knowledge, this is the first report of leaf spot on chinaberry caused by P. subsessilis in Korea. The observed high incidence and severity suggest that this disease can be a limiting factor in utilizing this tree species as ornamentals in public areas.
References: (1) D. F. Farr and A. Y. Rossman. Fungal Databases. Syst. Mycol. Microbiol. Lab., Online publication, ARS, USDA, Retrieved October 22, 2012. (2) Y. L. Guo and W. H. Hsieh. The genus Pseudocercospora in China. International Academic Publishers, Beijing, China, 1995. (3) T. J. White et al. PCR Protocols. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, 1990.