Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus L., is a flowering shrub in the family Malvaceae planted as the national flower of South Korea. In September 2012, previously unknown leaf spots with premature defoliation were observed on dozens of Rose of Sharon plants growing in the shaded area in a park of Dongducheon, Korea. The same symptoms were found on Rose of Sharon in several localities of Korea in 2012. The symptoms usually started as small, dark brown to grayish leaf spots, eventually causing leaf yellowing with significant premature defoliation. The diseased leaves retained for a while green color at the margin of the spots. Representative samples (n = 5) were deposited in the Korea University Herbarium (KUS). Conidiophores of the fungus observed microscopically on the leaf spots were erect, brown to dark brown, single or in clusters, amphigenous but mostly hypophyllous, and measured 80 to 400 × 5 to 10 μm. Conidia were borne singly or in short chains, ranging from cylindrical to broadest at the base and tapering apically, straight to slightly curved, pale olivaceous brown, 2 to 16 pseudoseptate, 50 to 260 × 9 to 20 μm, each with a conspicuous thickened hilum. On potato dextrose agar, single-spore cultures of two isolates were identified as Corynespora cassiicola (Berk. & M.A. Curtis) C.T. Wei on the basis of morphological and cultural characteristics (1,2). Two monoconidial isolates were preserved at the Korean Agricultural Culture Collection (KACC46956 and KACC46957). Genomic DNA was extracted using the DNeasy Plant Mini DNA Extraction Kit (Qiagen Inc., Valencia, CA). The complete internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of rDNA was amplified with the primers ITS1/ITS4 and sequenced. The resulting sequences of 520 bp were deposited in GenBank (Accession Nos. KC193256, KC193257). A BLAST search in GenBank revealed that the sequences showed 100% identity with those of numerous C. cassiicola isolates from diverse substrates. To conduct a pathogenicity test, a conidial suspension (ca. 2 × 104 conidia/ml) was prepared in sterile water by harvesting conidia from 2-week-old cultures of KACC46956, and the suspension was sprayed onto the leaves of three healthy 2-year-old plants. Inoculated plants were kept in humid chambers for the first 48 h and thereafter placed in the glasshouse. After 10 days, typical leaf spot symptoms developed on the leaves of all three inoculated plants. C. cassiicola was reisolated from the lesions, confirming Koch's postulates. Control plants treated with sterile water remained symptomless. C. cassiicola is cosmopolitan with a very wide host range (1,2). Though Corynespora hibisci Goto was recorded to be associated with brown spot disease of H. syriacus in Japan (4), there is no previous record of C. cassiicola on H. syriacus (3). To our knowledge, this is the first report of Corynespora leaf spot on Rose of Sharon in Korea. According to our field observations in Korea, this disease was found in August and September, following a prolonged period of moist weather. Severe infection resulted in leaf yellowing and premature defoliation, reducing tree vigor and detracting the beauty of green leaves.
References: (1) L. J. Dixon et al. Phytopathology 99:1015, 2009. (2) M. B. Ellis. Dematiaceous Hyphomycetes. Commonw. Mycol. Inst., Kew, UK, 1971. (3) D. F. Farr and A. Y. Rossman. Fungal Databases. Syst. Mycol. Microbiol. Lab., Online publication, ARS, USDA, Retrieved November 22, 2012. (4) K. Goto. Ann. Phytopathol. Soc. Japan 12:14, 1942.