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Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
ERWINIA SPP.-- SYMPTOMS AND FOLIAGE PLANT HOSTS
A. R. Chase
University of Florida, IFAS ... ;
Agricultural Research Center Apopka
ARC-A Research Report RH-83-13 .
One of the most serious and destructive foliage plant diseases is caused
by either Erwinia carotovora pv. carotovora or E. chrysanthemi. These bacteria
have been problems in the foliage industry for many years. Symptoms of Erwinia
infections differ somewhat from one host to the next, but several major types
of symptoms are common. Leaf spots or blights are characteristically water-
soaked and rarely discrete (their borders are not clearly confined). The
spots may occur on any part of the leaf and in the case of a blight these
spots enlarge and spread throughout the leaf and into petioles and stems. The
most common indication of stem rot caused by Erwinia spp. is yellowing of lower
leaves followed by wilting and lodging of the cutting or stem that is infected.
Examination of the cut end of the stem generally reveals a soft-to-mushy rot
which commonly smells like rotten fish. The tissue in the area looks like it
is disintegrating and bacterial exudate may occur.
The practice of trimming and resticking rotted cuttings is not advisable
because stem rot can recur and kill the cuttings even though they have rooted.
This practice is especially undesirable in stock plants because the Erwinia
stem rot will be perpetuated and spread to plants started from these stock
plants. Successful prevention of this disease remains dependent upon securing
and maintaining Erwinia-free plants since chemical control methods have not
always been satisfactory. Erwinia-free plants may be most easily secured by
purchase from a tissue culture laboratory which produces them and maintained
by strict sanitation measures in the growing area. These measures involve
removal and destruction of all infected plants as well as frequent examination
of stock and production plants for symptoms. Once Erwinia enters the growing
area (especially on asymptomatic plants or contaminated pots or potting medium)
it is very difficult to control since it is not always evident in infected
plants. For example, symptoms of stem rot of dieffenbachia may not be present
in stock plants, but they develop in cuttings started from these stock plants.
Keeping the foliage dry is another important control method for the foliar
phase of this disease since bacteria require free water on leaves to spread
and infect new sites.
Erwinia has a very broad host range, that is, it may infect many plants.
Knowing which plants are susceptible to Erwinia spp. is important in developing
control strategies because all new plants brought into the growing area are
potential sources of Erwinia contamination. Many of the known foliage plant
hosts of Erwinia are given in the table along with the most susceptible plants
in each group and the type of symptom which is generally encountered. There
are undoubtedly many other foliage plants which are susceptible to Erwinia
spp. and their absence from this list should not be taken as a statement of
their resistance to this serious bacterial pathogen. A list of references is
included at the end of this article for further information concerning specific
hosts of Erwinia spp.
1. Brown, J. G. and A. M. Boyle. 1943. Bacterial soft rot of sansevieria.
2. Dickey, R. 1979. Erwinia chrysanthemi: A comparative study of phenotypic
properties of strains from several hosts and other Erwinia species.
3. Griffith, L. 1982. Common problems with aglaonemas. Florida Nurseryman
4. Haygood, R. A. and D. L. Strider. 1979. Influence of temperature, inoculum
concentration, and wounding on infection of Philodendron selloum by Erwinia
chrysanthemi. Plant Dis. Reptr. 63:578-580.
5. Haygood, R. A. and D. L. Strider. 1981. Influence of moisture and inoculum
concentration on infection of Philodendron selloum by Erwinia chrysanthemi.
Plant Disease 65:727-728.
6. Haygood, R. A. and D. L. Strider. 1982. A comparison of inoculation methods
of Erwinia chrysanthemi in greenhouse ornamentals. Plant Disease 66:461-463.
7. Haygood, R. A., D. L. Strider, and E. Echandi. 1982. Survival of Erwinia
chrysanthemi in association with Philodendron selloum, other greenhouse
ornamentals, and in potting media. Phytopathology 72:853-859.
8. Knauss, J. F. and J. W. Miller. 1974. Bacterial blight of Saintpaulia
ionantha caused by Erwinia chrysanthemi. Phytopathology 64:1046-1047.
9. Knauss, J. F. and J. W. Miller. 1972. Description and control of the rapid
cutting decay of Scindapsus aureus incited by Erwinia carotovora. Proc. Fla.
State Hort. Soc 85:348-352.
10. Knauss, J. F. and C. Wehlburg. 1969. The distribution and pathogenicity
of Erwinia chrysanthemi Burkholder et al. to Syngonium podophyllum Schott.
Fla. State Hort. Soc. 82:370-373.
11. Knauss, J. F. and J. W. Miller. 1974. Etiological aspects of bacterial
blight of Philodendron selloum caused by Erwinia chrysanthemi. Phytop
12. Lai, M., S. Shaffer, and K. Sims. 1978. Bacterial blight of Syngonium
podophyllum caused by Erwinia chrysanthemi in California. Plant Dis. Reptr.
13. McFadden, L. A. 1961. Bacterial stem and leaf rot of Dieffenbachia in
Florida. Phytopathology 51:663-668.
14. Miller, H. N. and L. A. McFadden. 1961. A bacterial disease of Phil .....
15. Miller, J. W. 1972. Leaf rot of Philodendron selloum caused by Erwinia
chrysanthemi. Plant Path. Circ. No. 124. 2 pp.
16. Miller, J. W. 1980. Bacterial stem and leaf rot of Dieffenbachia. Plant
Path. Circ. No. 216. 2 pp.
17. Miller, J. W. 1982. Bud rot of Dracaena deremensis caused by Erwinia
carotovora. Phytopathology 72:977 (Abstr.).
18. Miller, J. W. and J. F. Knauss. 1974. Bacterial blight of African violet.
Plant Path. Circ. No. 149. 2 pp.
19. Munnecke, D. E. 1960. Bacterial stem rot of Dieffenbachia. Phytopathology
20. Roberts, B. J. 1977. Susceptibility of certain Saintpaulia species and
cultivars to bacterial blight. Plant Dis. Reptr. 61:1048-1050.
21. Suslow, T. and A. H. McCain. 1979. Etiology, host range, and control of
a soft rot bacterium from cactus. Phytopathology 69:8 (Abstr.).
1. Foliage plant hosts of Erwinia spp. and the most common symptoms) of
C. terminalis and
Blight of the crown, petioles and leaves.
Both stem rot of cuttings and leaf spot
symptoms occur on aglaonemas.
Leaf spots are common.
Leaf spots and blights.
Leaf blights extending into the petioles.
Crown and stem rot occur on rotting cuttings.
Stem rot is common.
Stem rot occurs occasionally.
Stem rot starts at the base of the leaf
cutting primarily and extends upward.
Severe loss of cuttings through stem rot
which also extends into the lower leaves.
Stem rot is very severe on cuttings of this
plant if the stock plants are infected. The
leaf spot phase is also a problem for plants
watered from overhead.
Both plants are very susceptible to stem rot.
These species are most commonly afflicted with
leaf spot that may extend down into the stems.
Leaf and stem rot occur.
Leaf spots can develop under wet conditions.
This is one of the most susceptible plants to
the foliar phase. Infection of leaves starts
as tiny spots but commonly enlarges to encompass
the entire leaf and petiole and causes complete
collapse of the leaf.
Most of the other cultivars are susceptible to
Erwinia spp. and show discrete leaf spots and
stem rot at times.
Table 1 (continued)
Common name of
Soft tip yucca.
Leaf spots and cutting rots occur
on this plant during propagation.
Leaves turn yellow and wilt and spots
develop, especially at their bases. The
entire plant may collapse as the i
progresses into the upper portions of
The most common symptom is a watery leaf
which is black or tan. Petioles and
may also become infected.
Leaves and stems are both affected.
Severe blight of the leaves can occur on
plants being watered from overhead. The
lesions commonly spread along the veins
leaves are water-soaked and collapse.
All portions above ground may be i
Leaf spots and rot of cuttings occurs
occasionally, especially during pr,