Virulence ofHymenoscyphus albidusand native and introducedHymenoscyphus fraxineusonFraxinus excelsiorandFraxinus pennsylvanica

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Ash dieback is caused by Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, a cryptic species of the putatively harmless Hymenoscyphus albidus. Recently, H. fraxineus was found to be native to East Asia. However, the virulence of Asian H. fraxineus strains on Fraxinus excelsior and the virulence of European H. albidus on hosts other than F. excelsior and Fraxinus mandshurica have not yet been assessed. In a wound inoculation study, the virulence of four H. albidus and four European and Japanese H. fraxineus strains was assessed on F. excelsior and Fraxinus pennsylvanica in a climate chamber. Lesion lengths were measured after approximately three and a half months. No lesions were observed on the negative control or on trees inoculated with H. albidus. In contrast, inoculation with H. fraxineus induced typical symptoms of ash dieback on both tree species. Japanese H. fraxineus strains induced significantly longer lesions compared to European strains. Fraxinus excelsior was highly susceptible and developed lesions averaging lengths of 1·7 and 8·4 cm for European and Japanese strains, respectively. Fraxinus pennsylvanica was less susceptible and developed average lesion lengths of 1·6 and 4·8 cm for European and Japanese strains, respectively. Most strains were successfully reisolated from necrotic lesions or inocula, fulfilling Koch's postulates. The data show that additional introductions of H. fraxineus strains from the native range to Europe could pose a threat to the conservation of F. excelsior. In addition, introduction of H. fraxineus to North America could potentially have a negative effect on the indigenous F. pennsylvanica.

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