A little known, unculturable ascomycete, referred to as Phyllachora ambrosiae, can destroy the inflorescences of Ambrosia artemisiifolia, an invasive agricultural weed and producer of highly allergenic pollen. The fungus often remains undetectable in ragweed populations. This work was conducted to understand its origin and pathogenesis, a prerequisite to consider its potential as a biocontrol agent. The methods used included light and transmission electron microscopy, nrDNA sequencing, phylogenetic analyses, artificial inoculations, and the examination of old herbarium and recent field specimens from Hungary, Korea, Ukraine and USA. The Eurasian and the North American specimens of this fungus were to represent two distinct, although closely related lineages that were only distantly related to other lineages within the Ascomycota. Consequently, we describe a new genus that includes Cryptophyllachora eurasiatica gen. et sp. nov. and C. ambrosiae comb. nov., respectively. The pathogenesis of C. eurasiatica was shown in A. artemisiifolia. No evidence was found for either seed-borne transmission or systemic infection. Two hypotheses were developed to explain the interaction between C. eurasiatica and A. artemisiifolia: (i) as yet undetected seed-borne transmissions and latent, systemic infections; or (ii) alternative hosts.
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