Group Title: ARC-A research report - Agricultural Research Center-Apopka ; RH-81-8
Title: Common bacterial diseases of foliage plants
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 Material Information
Title: Common bacterial diseases of foliage plants
Series Title: ARC-Apopka research report
Physical Description: 7, 3 p. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Chase, A. R ( Ann Renee )
Agricultural Research Center (Apopka, Fla.)
Publisher: University of Florida, IFAS, Agricultural Research Center
Place of Publication: Apopka FL
Publication Date: 1981
Subject: Foliage plants -- Diseases and pests -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Bacterial diseases of plants -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 8-10).
Statement of Responsibility: A.R. Chase.
General Note: Caption title.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00065975
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 71060170

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The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source

site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.

Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
of Florida

.. i .


S. -* ": A. R. Chase
L LL I FASUri diversity of Florida
Agricultural Research Center-Apopka
ARCApopka Research Report RH-81-8

The -ree.ious. thrpearticles of this series have been concerned with fungal

diseases of foliage plants and were divided according to symptomatology. This

article discusses diseases caused by bacteria affecting both leaves and stems

of infected plants. In one respect bacterial diseases are more serious than

fungal diseases since there are few efficaceous chemicals for their control.

Most bacterial diseases caused by Pseudomonas and Xanthomonas spp. involve the

leaves of the plant, while stem rots primarily are caused by Erwinia spp.

Cultural control methods for bacterial diseases are much the same as those

recommended for foliar fungal diseases and revolve around keeping the foliage

dry. Bacterial disease is generally most severe during the summer. Use of

pathogen-free stock is absolutely necessary since many bacterial pathogens

are introduced in this way. Control tactics depend to some extent upon

whether or not the stem of the plant is involved since some leafspots can be

controlled through bactericide applications. It is, however, doubtful that

stem rot organisms are affected by these chemicals since the major pathogen

is systemic in plants and cannot be eradicated with bactericides. Thus, the

best way to control bacterial stem rot disease is avoidance since infected

plants must be discarded to avoid contamination of uninfected plants. Of

course, the best way to control any disease is avoidance of infection and

good sanitation and other cultural controls should be designed toward this


Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology, Agricultural Research Center, Rt. 3,

Box 580, Apopka, FL 32703.


As in the previous articles, specific diseases followed by numbers of

references giving additional information on that topic are discussed. Many

of the papers listed include valuable information on chemical control of these

diseases which are not included in this article. The table at the end of the

article gives the known hosts of each organism and the common name of the

disease it causes.


Erwinia carotovora is a serious stem rot organism for many foliage plants,

especially those rooted from cuttings. The bacterium can be present in cuttings

when they are taken from apparently healthy stock plants. Under warm, wet

conditions required for rooting of cuttings, the bacterium develops extensively,

and a rapid mushy rot develops with most infected cuttings lost. The source of

the bacterium also can be a cutting instrument which is contaminated during

cutting removal from an infected plant and transfers the bacterium to cuttings

made from healthy plants. As the number of cuttings being transported from

the tropics increases, the number of reports of soft rot also increases. Cut-

tings are frequently held in sealed containers for periods up to one week in

which humidity and temperature levels are ideal for development of decay

resulting in a complete loss of the plants. The use of pathogen-free stock

plants and sterile cutting instruments is recommended for control of this

type of disease. Other hosts of this pathogen include aglaonema, anthurium,

dracaena, kalanchoe and syngonium.

ERWINIA CHRYSANTHEMI (3,4,5,8,9,12,13,15,16,18,19,23,24)

Erwinia chrysanthemi was first isolated from chrysanthemum and since

then has been reported to cause many serious diseases of vegetable, flower

and foliage crops. E. chrysanthemi has an extensive host range in foliage

plants. Hosts include African violet, aglaonema, dieffenbachia, philodendron


and syngonium but many others are subject to this organism as well. E.

chrysanthemi causes both stem rots and leafspots depending somewhat on the

environmental conditions and the host. Diseases caused by E. carotovora

and E. chrysanthemi are very similar and both organisms can be involved

in the same disease. Stem rot of dieffenbachia is generally caused by E.

chrysanthemi but E. carotovora is equally isolated from infected tissue.

Bacterial leafspots caused by E. chrysanthemi are characterized by water-

soaking and collapse of the spot. Frequently, the entire spot will melt

away and leave a ragged edge. There are some indications that wounding is

necessary for the initiation of infection, but this is not always the case.

Bacteria are easily splashed by irrigation water or rainfall and require

free water on leaves for development and keeping the foliage dry is extremely

important in their control.

Bacterial stem rot of dieffenbachia is possibly the most serious dis-

ease of that plant. Initial symptoms of infection are chlorotic lower

leaves and wilting, especially apparent in propagation areas. Many infected

cuttings develop a mushy stem rot and collapse and in very wet conditions

infected leaves melt away. Leafspots caused by E. chrysanthemi are generally

dark and develop rapidly sometimes affecting the entire leaf blade and petiole.

If infected leaves and plants are not removed from stock or production areas,

other plants easily become infected through movement of water or workers.


Pseudomonas alboprecipitans causes leaf blight offishtail palm (Caryota

mitis). This disease is not as common as many of those discussed in this

article but can be serious. Initial symptoms of disease are translucent,

water-soaked lesions developing into necrotic streaks along the leaf veins.
Mature lesions often are surrounded by a chlorotic halo and the center is dark


brown or black. Control of this disease can be accomplished through removal

of infected leaves and maintaining dry foliage as much as possible. No other

palms have been reported as hosts of this organism but the possibility should

be recognized.


Pseudomonas asplenii was reported in 1946 as the cause of a bacterial

disease of Bird's-nest fern (Asplenium nidus) but does not appear to be

common today. Initial symptoms start as small watersoaked spots which are

translucent and appear usually on the upper leaf surface. Spots enlarge rap-

idly and can encompass the entire leaf. Since the symmetry of the plant is

important in plant quality, the loss of a single leaf can be serious. Strict

sanitation and maintenance of dry foliage are important in disease control.


Pseudomonas cichorii causes leafspots of many plants including aglaonema,

anthurium, dracaena, gerbera, monstera, philodendron and pothos. Conditions

for development of this bacterial leafspot are the same as those described

for Erwinia chrysanthemi leafspot and control methods are also the same.

One of the most commonly seen diseases occurs on Dracaena sanderana and is

characterized by dark green watersoaked spots which later turn tan and have

a chlorotic border. The spots can enlarge until the entire leaf blade is

involved. This disease is especially prevalent in mist beds where cuttings

are rooted since the high humidity and temperature favor disease development.

Use of pathogen-free stock is an important method of control.


Xanthomonas dieffenbachiae was first described on dieffenbachia. Circu-

lar, translucent spots develop on all areas of the leaf blade, later becoming

dull green with a yellow halo. Mature lesions are tan and irregular usually

retaining the yellow halo. As with other bacterial diseases, keeping the foliage

dry and removing infected leaves is important to control this disease. The first

report of this disease was made in 1939 and it was not until 1962 that the same

organism was recognized as causing a disease on another foliage plant, aglaonema.

Since then anthurium, philodendron, and syngonium have been added to the list of

plants susceptible to Xanthomonas dieffenbachiae.

The disease is very serious in Philodendron scandens oxycardium when plants

are grown in ground beds and exposed to rainfall or watered from overhead.

When conditions are dry and cool, symptom expression can be limited to a reddish

leaf edge while under warm wet conditions, the bacterium spreads into the center

of infected leaves and water-soaked lesions appear. Lesions are most easily

recognized on the lower surface of the leaf and are yellowish and frequently

bounded by the leaf veins.


Xanthomonas hederae causes bacterial leafspot and stem canker of English

ivy and was described as early as 1894 although the identity of the pathogen

was not determined until 1934. Bacterial leafspot and stem canker of Hedera

helix (ivy) has continued to cause serious losses over the last 47 years.

Leafspots appear as small water-soaked areas which turn dark brown to black

and have a chlorotic halo. Mature lesions have a similar appearance to those

caused by Colletotrichum sp. and indeed both diseases may occur simultaneously

on a planting. Colletotrichum leafspot can be differentiated if the small

black fruiting bodies of the fungus are present in the lesions. Under warm

wet conditions lesions develop extensively and spread into the petiole and

stems. Infection of stems also occurs directly through the succulent new

growth. A soft, dark brown to black decay rapidly occurs in this tissue


and advances until older more mature tissue is reached. Control of this

disease should be accomplished using the same cultural controls as other

bacterial diseases.


Two additional foliage plants have been reported as susceptible to an

unidentified Xanthomonas sp., Pellionia spp. and Pilea sp. Lesions have

water-soaked margins and tan centers which can fall out under wet conditions.

Heavily infected plants also can suffer leaf abscission (drop).


Common bacterial diseases of foliage plants listed
giving the pathogen.

according to host and

Host Disease Pathogen

African violet (See Saintpaulia)
Aglaonema spp. Soft rot


Asplenium nidus
Caryota mitis
Dieffenbachia spF

Dracaena spp.

Epipremnum aureun

fishtail palm

Hedera helix

Soft rot



Bacterial leafspot
Bacterial leaf blight
i. Erwinia blight and
stem rot
Bacterial leafspot
Soft rot
Bacterial leafspot
(D. sanderana)
Rapid decay (soft rot)
Bacterial leafspot
(See Asplenium)
(See Caryota)

Bacterial leafspot
and stem canker

Erwinia carotovora
Erwinia chrysanthemi
Pseudomonas cichorii and
Xanthomonas dieffenbachiae
Erwinia carotovora
Pseudomonas cichorii and
Xanthomonas dieffenbachiae
Pseudomonas asplenii
Pseudomonas alboprecipitans
Erwinia chrysanthemi

Xanthomonas dieffenbachiae
Erwinia carotovora
Pseudomonas cichorii

Erwinia carotovora
Pseudomonas cichorii

Xanthomonas hederae

ivy (See Hedera)
Kalanchoe spp. Soft rot
Monstera sp. Bacterial leafspot
Pellionia sp. Bacterial leafspot
Philodendron spp. Erwinia blight
Bacterial leafspot
Red edge (P. scandens
Pilea sp. Bacterial leafspot
pothos (See Epipremnum)
Saintpaulia ionantha Erwinia blight
Sansevieria spp. Soft rot
Syngonium spp. Soft rot
Erwinia blight
Bacterial leafspot

Erwinia carotovora
Pseudomonas cichorii
Xanthomonas sp.
Erwinia chrysanthemi
Pseudomonas cichorii
Xanthomonas dieffenbachiae

Xanthomonas sp.

Erwinia chrysanthemi
Erwinia carotovora
Erwinia carotovora
Erwinia chrysanthemi
Xanthomonas dieffenbachiae


1. Ark, Peter A. and C. M. Thompkins. 1946. Bacterial leaf blight of bird's

nest fern. Phytopathology 36:758-761.

2. Brown, J. G. and Alice M. Boyle. 1944. Bacterial soft rot of sansevieria.

Phytopathology 34:350-351.

3. Dickey, Robert S. 1979. Erwinia chrysanthemi: A comparative study of

phenotypic properties of strains from several hosts and other Erwinia

species. Phytopathology 69:324-329.

4. Dickey, Robert S. 1981. Erwinia chrysanthemi: Reaction of eight plant

species to strains from several hosts and to strains of other Erwinia

species. Phytopathology 71:23-29.

5. Haygood, R. A. and D. L. Strider. 1979. Influence of temperature,

inoculum concentration, and wounding on infection of Philodendron selloum

by Erwinia chrysanthemi. Plant Disease Reporter 63(7):578-580.

6. Hayward, A. C. 1972. A bacterial disease of anthurium in Hawaii. Plant

Disease Reporter 56(10):904-908.

7. Knauss, J. F. and J. W. Miller. 1972. Description and control of the

rapid decay of Scindapsus aureus incited by Erwinia carotovora. Proc. Fla.

State Hort. Soc. 85:348-352.

8. Knauss, J. F. and J. W. Miller. 1974. Bacterial blight of Saintpaulia

ionantha caused by Erwinia chrysanthemi. Phytopathology 64(7):1046-1047.

9. Knauss, J. F. and J. W. Miller. 1974. Etiological aspects of bacterial

blight of Philodendron selloum caused by Erwinia chrysanthemi. Phyto-

pathology 64(12):1526-1528.

10. Knauss, J. F., J. W..Miller and R. J. Virgona. 1978. Bacterial blight

of fishtail palm, a new disease. Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 91:245-247.

11. Knauss, J. F., W. E. Waters and R. T. Poole. 1971. The evaluation of

bactericides and bactericide combinations for the control of bacterial

leaf spot and tip burn of Philodendron oxycardium incited by Xanthomonas

dieffenbachiae. Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 84:423-428.

12. Knauss, J. F. and C. Wehlburg. 1969. The distribution and pathogenicity

of Erwinia chrysanthemi Burkholder et al. to Syngonium podophyllum Schott.

Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 82:370-373.

13. Lai, Mingtan, Steven Shaffer and Ken Sims. 1978. Bacterial blight of

Syngonium podophyllum caused by Erwinia chrysanthemi in California.

Plant Disease Reporter 62(4):298-302.

14. McCulloch, Lucia and P. P. Pirone. 1939. Bacterial leaf spot of

dieffenbachia. Phytopathology 29:956-962.

15. McFadden, Lorne A. 1961. Bacterial stem and leaf spot of dieffenbachia

in Florida. Phytopathology 51:663-668.

16. McFadden, Lorne A. 1962. Two bacterial pathogens affecting leaves of

Aglaonema robelinii. Phytopathology 52:20.

17. McFadden, L. A. 1967. A Xanthomonas infection of Philodendron oxycardium

leaves. Phytopathology 57:342.

18. McFadden, Lorne A. 1969. Aglaonema pictum, a new host of Erwinia

chrysanthemi. Plant Disease Reporter 53:253-254.

19. Miller, H. N. and Lorne A. McFadden. 1961. A bacterial disease of
philodendron. Phytopathology 51:826-831.

20. Miller, J. W. and J. F. Knauss. 1973. Bacterial blight of Gerbera

jamesonii incited by Pseudomonas cichorii. Plant Disease Reporter


21. Miller, J.W., R. J. Virgona and J. F. Knauss. 1976. Xanthomonas leaf

spot of Pellionia pulchra, P. daveauana and Pilea cadierei. Proc. Amer.

Phytopath. Soc. 3:340-341.

22. Miller, J. W. and C. Wehlburg. 1969. Bacterial leaf spot of Dracaena

sanderiana. Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 82:368-370.

23. Munnecke, Donald E. 1960. Bacterial stem rot of dieffenbachia. Phyto-

pathology 50 (10):696-700.

24. Roberts, Betty J. 1977. Susceptibility of certain Saintpaulia species

and cultivars to bacterial blight. Plant Disease Reporter 61(12):1048-


25. Wehlburg, C. 1968. Bacterial leaf spot and tip burn of Philodendron

oxycardium caused by Xanthomonas dieffenbachiae. Proc. Fla. State

Hort. Soc. 394-397.

26. Wehlburg, C. 1969. Bacterial leaf blight of Syngonium podophyllum.

Phytopathology 54:1056.

27. Wehlburg, C., C. P. Seymour and R. E. Stall. 1966. Leaf spot of araceae

caused by Pseudomonas cichorii (Swingle) Stapp. Proc. Fla. State Hort.

Soc. 79:433-436.

28. White, Richard P. 1934. A bacterial disease of Hedera helix. Journal

of Agricultural Research 48(9):807-815.

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