iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Verticillium wilt of Ailanthus altissima in Italy caused by V. dahliae: new outbreaks from Tuscany

Claudia Pisuttu, Alessandra Marchica, Rodolfo Bernardi, Antonella Calzone, Lorenzo Cotrozzi, Cristina Nali, Elisa Pellegrini, Giacomo Lorenzini   

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 13, Issue 3, Pages 238-245 (2020)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor3238-013
Published: Jun 19, 2020 - Copyright © 2020 SISEF

Research Articles

Verticillium spp., including V. nonalfalfae and V. dahliae, are known vascular wilt pathogens of the invasive Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven) in the United States and in Europe. Herein we provide evidence of the presence of a previously unreported wilt disease of A. altissima in Tuscany (Central Italy). Several isolates were collected from two locations and identified as V. dahliae, based on microscopical features of conidiophores, conidia and microsclerotia. Genomic DNA was extracted from the mycelium, the ITS region was amplified and the sequence was deposited in GenBank as VdGL16 (accession no. MK474459). BLASTn analysis showed 100% similarity with V. dahliae. To confirm pathogenicity of VdGL16, inoculations of Ailanthus seedlings were performed with the root dipping technique whereas mature trees were stem-inoculated. All inoculated seedlings exhibited wilt symptoms after 20 days, while mature Ailanthus trees showed wilting and dieback after six months. The pathogen was easily re-isolated from seedlings and re-identified as V. dahliae, thus satisfying Koch’s postulates. Results from intraspecific resistance screening of nine seed sources from across Italy revealed that Ailanthus provenances from all the six sampled regions were susceptible to V. dahliae. Stem inoculated adult plants exhibited abundant production of epicormic sprouts along the stem within six months, and most of these sprouts wilted following initial dieback of the main stem; furthermore, sprouting from the crown was intense. Petioles and rachises tissues of leaves fallen from infected trees were a good source for re-isolation of the pathogen; we proved that such petioles and rachises can effectively transfer the fungus to healthy Ailanthus seedlings via root infections. Host-specificity of the V. dahliae isolate VdGL16 was also determined on 40 non-target species/varieties/cultivars. The isolate caused disease in herbaceous species belonging to five botanical families: Asteraceae, Lamiaceae, Leguminoseae, Linaceae and Solanaceae. Given the difficulties in countering Ailanthus invasion with mechanical and chemical methods, the biological control using Verticillium may provide an efficient, low cost and sustainable control of this invasive species.


Tree-of-heaven, Verticillium dahliae, ITS Region, Accession Number MK474459, Koch’s Postulates, Biocontrol


Pisuttu C, Marchica A, Bernardi R, Calzone A, Cotrozzi L, Nali C, Pellegrini E, Lorenzini G (2020). Verticillium wilt of Ailanthus altissima in Italy caused by V. dahliae: new outbreaks from Tuscany. iForest 13: 238-245. - doi: 10.3832/ifor3238-013

Academic Editor

Alberto Santini

Paper history

Received: Sep 13, 2019
Accepted: Apr 18, 2020

First online: Jun 19, 2020
Publication Date: Jun 30, 2020
Publication Time: 2.07 months

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