Pathogenicity ofHymenoscyphus fraxineustowards leaves of three European ash species:Fraxinus excelsior,F. angustifoliaandF. ornus

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Abstract

This study aimed to demonstrate the association of the ash dieback pathogen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus with leaf symptoms on Fraxinus excelsior and to test its pathogenicity towards leaves of three European ash species, F. excelsior, F. angustifolia and F. ornus, in wound inoculation experiments. On F. excelsior, H. fraxineus was isolated from 94% of leaf rachises with necrotic lesions and from 74% of necrotic leaflet midribs. Following wound inoculation of leaf rachises, in two separate experiments performed in 2010 and 2011, the ash dieback pathogen caused symptoms (necrotic rachis lesions, leaf wilting and premature leaf shedding) on all three ash species, while control leaves remained symptomless. Hymenoscyphus fraxineus was consistently reisolated from fungus-inoculated rachises. All 10 isolates tested were pathogenic to the three ash species and varied in virulence. Koch's postulates for H. fraxineus as causal agent of leaf symptoms on F. excelsior were fulfilled in this study. Complemented with the isolation of the fungus from naturally infected, symptomatic leaf rachises of F. angustifolia and F. ornus in previous investigations, H. fraxineus was confirmed to be a leaf pathogen of these ash species as well. The leaf inoculation experiments showed that F. excelsior was highly susceptible to H. fraxineus, F. angustifolia was equally or slightly less susceptible, whereas F. ornus was the least affected species; however, F. ornus should also be regarded as a host tree for the ash dieback pathogen. This susceptibility ranking corresponds well with field observations and previous stem inoculation experiments.

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