Taxonomic name: Cryphonectria parasitica (Murrill) Barr
Synonyms: Endothia parasitica
Common names: chestnut blight (English), Edelkastanienkrebs (German)
Organism type: fungus
Cryphonectria parasitica is a fungus that attacks primarily Castanea spp. but also has been known to cause damage to various Quercus spp. along with other species of hardwood trees. American chestnut, C. dentata, was a dominant overstorey species in United States forests, but now they have been completely replaced within the ecosystem. C. dentata still exists in the forests but only within the understorey as sprout shoots from the root system of chestnuts killed by the blight years ago. A virus that attacks this fungus appears to be the best hope for the future of Castanea spp., and current research is focused primarily on this virus and variants of it for biological control. Chestnut blight only infects the above-ground parts of trees, causing cankers that enlarge, girdle and kill branches and trunks.
Cryphonectria radicalis, Endothia gyrosa
host, natural forests, planted forests
Cryphonectria parasitica is a fungus that attacks primarily Castanea dentata and Castanea sativa although it can attack a variety of other hardwood tree species such as: C. mollissima, Alnus cordata, Ostrya carpinifolia, Carpinus betulus, Quercus pubescens, Q. petraea, Q. frainetto, and Q. ilex (Dallavalle and Zambonelli, 1999).
Cryphonectria parasitica has had a negative cascading effect upon native forest composition and diversity throughout most of the United States since its introduction. Davelos and Jarosz (2004) state that, "American chestnut, C. dentata, was a dominant overstorey species in hardwood forests of the eastern United States of America prior to the introduction of blight (Day and Monk, 1974; Karban, 1978; Russell, 1987). In Southern Appalachian forests, the loss of mature chestnuts may have substantially reduced the forest's carrying capacity for certain wildlife species (Diamond et al., 2000). After the spread of C. parasitica, oak (Quercus spp.), red maple (Acer rubrum) and hickory (Carya spp.) became the dominant overstorey tree species (Keever, 1953; Stephenson, et al., 1991). Today, chestnuts continue to be an important understorey species because of sprouts produced by extant tree root systems (Keever, 1953; Russell, 1987; Stephenson et al., 1991). However, infected sprout clusters exhibit reductions in survival and size, particularly when in competition with other hardwoods (Griffin et al., 1991; Parker et al., 1993). Vandermast et al. (2002) state that, "Allelopathic qualities of chestnut leaves could have affected large areas of eastern forests. Chestnut foliage was dense, the leaf litter abundant and the leaves slow to decay ( Zon, 1904). Other studies indicate rain throughfall, dripping off live foliage, can contain concentrations of phytotoxic chemicals sufficient to inhibit germination of co-occurring species ( Al; Lodhi and Nilsen). With the abundance of competitive tree and shrub species in the southern Appalachians, it is possible allelopathy had an influence on maintaining chestnut's dominance in the region."
In Italy, Dallavalle and Zambonelli (1999) state that, "There is a very high occurrence of chestnut blight on oak in the mixed woods of southern-central Italy where the pathogen still causes severe damage on chestnut ( Luisi et al., 1994). Although the occurrence of the disease on hosts other than chestnut does not involve damage to these trees it could play an important role in the epidemiology of the fungus."
Davelos and Jarosz (2004) state that, "The blight pathogen, C. parasitica (Murrill) Barr, was introduced into the United States from Japan (Milgroom, 1995; Milgroom et al., 1996) around 1904 (Merkel, 1905) and rapidly spread throughout the range of the American chestnut, Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh. Heiniger & Rigling (1994) postulated that the natural spread of hypovirulence in Europe has led to a decline in the severity of disease and has allowed many stands of European chestnut to recover. Many attempts have been made to introduce hypoviruses as biological control agents of C. parasitica in the eastern United States (reviewed in MacDonald and Fulbright, 1991), but they have failed to spread and contain the epidemic." The authors also state that, "Naturalised populations of C. dentata occur throughout the lower peninsula of Michigan (Brewer, 1995). Populations originated from seed or seedlings planted by early settlers of the state. Blight was first reported in Michigan in the late 1920s (Baxter and Strong, 1931), and hypovirus was detected in the late 1970s (Day et al., 1977). In some cases hypoviruses have spread naturally, leading to recovery of some chestnut populations (Fulbright et al. 1983).
"The bark miner Spulerina simploniella (Lepidoptera: Gracilariidae) was found in coppice chestnut (Castanea sativa) forests in Greece but was not found in chestnut orchards. Its larvae mine under the thin periderm of young trees, 4–10 years old, while the stem bark is still smooth. Under normal conditions it does not cause any damage to the trees. However, when chestnut blight caused by Cryphonectria parasitica is present in the area, the insect may be an agent of disease spread. Experiments revealed that spraying of 23 pupation sites with a C. parasitica conidiospore suspension caused canker formation at a rate of 100% in the coppice chestnut forests of Mount Athos, North Greece. It is believed that rain during the pupation period (approximately May 23 to June 15) may deposit conidiospores on the freshly exposed phloem and cause cankers. This bark miner has been detected in several parts of Greece, however, always in intensively managed chestnut coppice forests. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR] (Diamandis and Perlerou, 2005).
Native range: Asia (EPPO, 2004).
Known introduced range: Europe and North America (EPPO, 2004).
Introduction pathways to new locations
Nursery trade: The Chestnut blight fungus was likely introduced to North America on nursery stock from Asia and was first observed killing trees in the Bronx Zoo (New York City) in 1904 (The Canadian Chestnut Council, undated).
Local dispersal methods
On animals (local): Guerin et al. (2001) state that, "Ascospores were discharged from these perithecia during periods of warm rain events in spring, summer and autumn. Discharged ascospores were further dispersed in air by wind and may be the source of primary inoculum each season."
Water currents: Guerin et al. (2001) state that, "Ascospores were discharged from these perithecia during periods of warm rain events in spring, summer and autumn. Discharged ascospores were further dispersed in air by wind and may be the source of primary inoculum each season."
Marra and Milgroom (1999) state that, "Although C. parasitica functions nearly exclusively as a self-incompatible fungus in the laboratory, with extremely rare occurrences of self-fertilization documented (Marra, 1998), self-fertilization constitutes about 25% of the mating system in nature (Milgroom et al., 1993; Marra, 1998)."The authors also state that, "Self-fertilization occurs under both laboratory and field conditions in C. parasitica. The disparity between observations of frequent selfing in nature and rare selfing in the laboratory suggests that the mating system is under ecological as well as genetic control."
Guerin et al. (2001) state that, "Under American conditions, numerous perithecia (the sexual fruiting bodies of C. parasitica), maturing in stromata, were visible on the infected bark surface. Ascospores were discharged from these perithecia during periods of warm rain events in spring, summer and autumn. Discharged ascospores were further dispersed in air by wind and may be the source of primary inoculum each season. C. parasitica has a mixed mating system and both outcrossing and self-fertilization can occur within a population. Perithecia of C. parasitica occur but are not very frequent in most areas of Europe. More recently, in a survey of C. parasitica populations in Italy, the sexual stage was found in nine out of 10 populations, indicating the potential for sexual reproduction (Milgroom and Cortesi, 1999)."
This species has been nominated as among 100 of the "World's Worst" invaders
Reviewed by: Cécile Robin, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Bordaeux, France.
Principal sources: Liu, Y. C., M. L Double, W. L. MacDonald, and M. G. Milgroom. 2002. Persistence of Cryphonectria hypoviruses after their release for biological control of chestnut blight in West Virginia forests. Forest Pathology 32: 345-356
Compiled by: National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
Last Modified: Friday, 31 March 2006