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First Report of Root and Crown Rot Caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi Affecting Native Stands of Arctostaphylos myrtifolia and A. viscida in California

    Authors and Affiliations
    • T. J. Swiecki
    • E. A. Bernhardt , Phytosphere Research, 1027 Davis Street, Vacaville, CA 95687
    • M. Garbelotto , Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley 94720

      Ione manzanita (Arctostaphylos myrtifolia) is a rare, endemic, evergreen shrub restricted to Ione formation soils (infertile, acidic, sedimentary oxisols) in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The widely distributed A. viscida (whiteleaf manzanita) intermixes with A. myrtifolia at the margins of Ione formation soils. In 2002, we observed extensive mortality within two mixed stands of A. myrtifolia and A. viscida near Ione, CA. At one site, nearly all plants of both species in a 0.25-ha area had died recently. At a second site, most of the A. myrtifolia and A. viscida plants on several hectares died at least 5 years earlier. Dying plants of both species exhibited wilting and desiccation of the foliage; dark brown discoloration and necrosis of the root crown, taproot, and some large roots; and loss of fine roots. Plants of all age classes were affected. We consistently isolated a Phytophthora sp. from symptomatic plants of both species using PARP (1) and acidified potato dextrose agar. We recovered the same Phytophthora sp. from soil collected under dead plants using green pears to bait flooded soil samples. The pathogen was not recovered from soil collected under healthy plants 50 m from the nearest dead plant. Based on the morphology of the hyphae, chlamydospores, sporangia, and the sequence of the internal transcribed spacer rDNA, we identified the pathogen as P. cinnamomi Rands (GenBank Accession No. AY267370; ATCC No. MYA-2989). To test pathogenicity, we poured zoospore suspensions (4 × 104 zoospores per pot) on the soil of eight pots with rooted A. myrtifolia cuttings and four pots with rooted A. viscida cuttings (1 14-month-old plant per pot). The soil in inoculated and uninoculated control pots (eight A. myrtifolia and two A. viscida) was flooded for 20 to 23 h. All inoculated A. myrtifolia developed severe root and crown rot, and seven of eight died within 17 days. All inoculated A. viscida developed severe root rot, and three of four developed 5- to 10-cm long basal cankers. After 17 days, we isolated P. cinnamomi from inoculated A. myrtifolia (eight of eight) and A. viscida (two of four) but not from controls, which remained healthy. We tested pathogenicity in native soil by transplanting rooted cuttings (eight A myrtifolia and six A. viscida) into pots of naturally infested soil from one of the disease centers. Controls (four and three plants, respectively) were planted in soil collected from under healthy plants. Pots were flooded for 12 to 13 h for 11 days (A. myrtifolia) or 6 weeks (A. viscida) after transplanting. All plants grown in naturally infested soil developed root and crown rot, and all A. myrtifolia and one A. viscida died within 5 weeks of transplanting. Plants grown in field soil collected near healthy plants remained asymptomatic. We isolated P. cinnamomi from all eight A. myrtifolia and three A. viscida plants grown in infested soil but not from the controls. To our knowledge, this is the first report of root and crown rot caused by P. cinnamomi on A. myrtifolia and A. viscida. P cinnamomi was first isolated in the state in 1942 (2), but it has not previously been reported to caused significant mortality in natural stands of California native species. This disease will significantly impact conservation of the already threatened A. myrtifolia.

      References: (1) D. C. Erwin and O. K. Ribeiro, Phytophthora Diseases Worldwide. American Phytopathological Society, St. Paul, MN 1996. (2) V. A. Wager. Hilgardia 14:519, 1942.