Friday, March 22, 2013

Leptoxyphium, an Unusual Sooty Mold

Ornamental sweetpotato leaves with sooty mold at the petiole/blade junction

The sooty mold Leptoxyphium on the underside of an ornamental sweetpotato leaf
This blog is going to be a bit more technical than many of my posts, but I hope you'll find it interesting. A recent sample of ornamantal sweetpotato leaves from a greenhouse showed dark fungal growth at the top of the petiole and on the upper and lower surface of the leaf, just at the point of petiole attachment. The colonies could be scraped off easily, which is typical of sooty molds. The fungus was sporulating freely, with conidia (asexual spores) produced in drops of liquid at the tops of dark synnemata (tiny columns of fungal hyphae).

Synnemata of Leptoxyphium sp. on sweetpotato leaf
Top of a synnema of Leptoxyphium, at 400x
Using Seifert & Okada's key to synnematous hyphomycete genera in the 2011 book "The Genera of Hyphomycetes", the identification was made to the genus Leptoxyphium. The name means "slender sword" in English, possibly referring to the shape of the synnemata, but it is interesting that there are also awl-shaped (subulate) cells around the fringe of the spore-bearing area. This genus is also described on pp. 777-782 of Stanley Hughes's 1976 paper "Sooty Molds" (Mycologia 68(4): 693-820). Leptoxyphium species are a tropical to subtropical sooty molds, and rather unusual in that they often grow in association with glands and glandular trichomes of plants, rather than on insect honeydew. The good news for the greenhouse producer is that while it is an asethetic issue, this fungus is not going to harm the plants.