Calonectria pseudonaviculata (Crous, J. Z. Groenew. & C. F. Hill) L. Lombard, M. J. Wingf. & Crous, 2010

California Pest Rating for
Calonectria pseudonaviculata (Crous, J. Z. Groenew. & C. F. Hill) L. Lombard, M. J. Wingf. & Crous, 2010
Pest Rating: B

Initiating Event:

On November 22, 2016, non-official samples of diseased boxwood plants collected by a landscaper from a private property in Hillsborough, San Mateo County, were sent through the San Mateo County Agricultural Commissioner’s office to the CDFA Plant Pathology Lab for diagnosis.  The samples were examined by Kathy Kosta CDFA plant pathologist, and the associated pathogen was cultured and identified by Cheryl Blomquist CDFA plant pathologist, as Calonectria pseudonaviculata (Kosta, 2016).  Subsequently, on November 29, 2016, official samples were collected from the same private property by Kathy Kosta (CDFA) and Fred Crowder (San Mateo County) and processed at the CDFA Plant Pathology Lab for pathogen diagnosis.  The official identification of Calonectria pseudonaviculata was made by Cheryl Blomquist on December 7, 2016.  This detection marked a first record of the pathogen in California.  Consequently, the pathogen was assigned a temporary ‘Q’ rating.   The risk of introduction and establishment of the pathogen is assessed here and a permanent rating is proposed.

History & Status:

Background:  Calonectria pseudonaviculata is the fungal pathogen that causes boxwood blight or box blight disease.  The pathogen is also known by its asexual (anamorph) stage as Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum.  The disease was first reported in the United Kingdom in the early to mid-1990s and the pathogen was given the name Cylindrocladium buxicola.  The origin of C. pseudonaviculatum is not known.  The pathogen was considered an exotic species that had been introduced to the UK and by 1998, it had spread to Europe and New Zealand.  (CABI, 2016; Crous et al., 2002; Dart et al., 2012).  While most published literature refers to the fungus as C. buxicola, this pathogen was not formally reported in the literature until 2002 as Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum which later became synonymous with Calonectria pseudonaviculata, the sexual (teleomorph) stage of the fungus (Lombard et al., 2010).  The current scientific name of the pathogen is Calonectria pseudonaviculata (CABI, 2016; Crous et al., 2002; Ivors & LeBude, 2011).

Disease cycle:  The pathogen infects host plants rapidly in warm (18-25°C) and humid conditions and has a life cycle that is completed in one week (Henricot, 2006; Henricot et al., 2008).  The primary inoculum of spores are sticky and therefore, are best transmitted to healthy host plants by water-splash or carried by insects, birds or infested plants.  Spores germinate three hours after inoculation and penetrate leaves in as little as five hours (Henricot, 2006).  Hyphae penetrate through stomata on lower surface of leaves, or directly through the cuticle on upper surface of leaves without appressorium formation (specialized attachment and penetration structure).  The fungus continues to grow intercellularly in the mesophyll layers of the plant (Henricot, 2006).  Two to three days after infection, the fungus produces conidiophores and conidia (asexual spores) through stomata and after seven days, these cover the lower surface of the leaf.  Leaves are eventually killed (Henricot, 2006).   The fungus can form resting structures (microsclerotia) which can survive on leaf material and in the soil in the absence of a susceptible host (Henricot, 2006).  However, in a 5-year study on the survival of the fungus on decomposing plant material, Henricot et al., (2008) did not detect the presence of microsclerotia.  Apparently, the pathogen is able to survive as mycelium within decomposing plant tissue.   No sexual stage structures have been observed in nature or in culture (CABI, 2016).

C. pseudonaviculata is a low temperature fungus that can grow below 10°C but is inhibited at 30°C and killed at 33°C (Henricot, 2006).

Dispersal and spread: The pathogen is spread by wind-driven rain and splashing water over short distances.  Long distance spread occurs by movement of infected plants/nursery stock, infested plant debris, soil, contaminated tools and equipment, insects or birds.  The pathogen can survive in leaf debris on or beneath the soil surface for up to 5 years (Dart et al., 2012; Henricot, 2006; Henricot et al., 2008).  The disease may also be spread is through the movement of asymptomatic (or with very limited outward symptoms) boxwood plants or plants treated with fungicides that suppress but do not kill or eliminate the inhabiting pathogen (Douglas, 2011).

Hosts: Buxaceae: Buxus microphylla (little-leaf box), B. microphylla var. japonica, B. sempervirens (syn. B. colchica; common boxwood), B. sinica (Chinese box), B. sinica var. insularis (Korean boxwood), Buxus sp. (box), Pachysandra procumbens, P. terminalis (Japanese spurge), Sarcococca sp. (sweet box) (CABI, 2016; EPPO, 2016; Farr & Rossman, 2016).

The full host range of this pathogen is not currently known however, none of the Buxus species are immune to boxwood blight and susceptibility to the pathogen may vary among cultivars (Henricot et al., 2008).  Sarcococca sp. (sweet box) and Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese spurge) are experimental hosts (Henricot et al., 2008; LaMondia et al., 2012).

Symptoms:  Infections by Calonectria pseudonaviculata result in the production of dark brown or lighter brown leaf spots surrounded by a dark border.  Stems are also infected exhibiting characteristic black streaks.  Eventually severe defoliation and dieback occur.  The fungus does not infect the roots.  Entire foliage typically becomes blighted causing the leaves to turn ‘straw’ to light brown in color and defoliate.  Stems of blighted plants may remain green under the outer bark until infected by secondary or opportunistic pathogens and diseases resulting in decline and eventual death of entire plants.  Young seedlings can be killed by this pathogen (Henricot, 2006; Henricot et al., 2008; USDA-NCSU).

Damage Potential:   The disease has been described as ‘devastating’ to boxwood plants (Henricot et al., 2008). Foliage of infected plant is eventually killed and blighted plants are predisposed to infections by secondary pathogens also resulting in their eventual death.  At particular risk are boxwood plants grown in nurseries, commercial landscapes, parks and gardens, and at private residences under warm and wet climates conducive for the development and spread of the pathogen.  Rapid and widespread infection including over 10,000 American boxwood plants and 150,000 plants in production nurseries in North Carolina and Connecticut were reported (Ivors et al., 2012).  Buxus spp. (boxwood) are not native to the United States, and are widely cultivated as ornamental plants.  In California, depending on plant species and cultivar, boxwood is commonly grown throughout the State except in cold, mountainous regions, and are likely to prefer cooler climates in the State (Sunset Western Garden Book, 1992).  Three main species are grown as ornamentals in the USA, B. sempervirens, B. microphylla, and B. sinica var. insularis, all which are known hosts of C. pseudonaviculata (USDA-NCSU).

Worldwide Distribution: Asia: Iran, Republic of Georgia, Turkey; North America: Canada (restricted distribution in British Columbia, few occurrences in Ontario and Quebec), USA; Europe: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom; Oceania: New Zealand (CABI, 2016; EPPO, 2016; Farr & Rossman, 2016).

In the USA, C. pseudonaviculata has been reported from Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia (CABI, 2016; EPPO, 2016; Farr & Rossman, 2016), and by this report from California.

Official Control:  Cylindrocladium buxicola (synonym C. pseudonaviculata) is on the ‘Harmful Organism Lists’ for the Republic of Korea (USDA PCIT, 2016).  Presently, it has a temporary Q rating in California.

California Distribution:   San Mateo County.

California Interceptions None reported.

The risk Calonectria pseudonaviculata would pose to California is evaluated below.

Consequences of Introduction: 

1) Climate/Host Interaction: The boxwood blight pathogen, Calonectria pseudonaviculata rapidly infests host plants under humid and warm (18-25°C) climates – being inhibited at 30°C and killed at 33°C. Spores are transmitted to healthy host tissue under wet conditions, requiring wind-driven rains and water splash from overhead irrigation systems. Depending on species and cultivar selection, Buxus are grown throughout California, except in mountainous regions, and are likely to do best in cool climates, such as coastal regions of the State.  Plants grown in warm and humid climates are at possible risk of infection by the pathogen.  The pathogen may be able to establish in a larger but limited region in the State, suitable also to the growth of its host plants.  Therefore a ‘medium’ rating is given to this category.

Evaluate if the pest would have suitable hosts and climate to establish in California.

Score: 2

– Low (1) Not likely to establish in California; or likely to establish in very limited areas.

– Medium (2) may be able to establish in a larger but limited part of California.

– High (3) likely to establish a widespread distribution in California.

2) Known Pest Host Range: The host range of Calonectria pseudonaviculata is currently limited to few Buxus species (boxwood) and several cultivars, as well as Sarcococca (sweet box) and Pachysandra spp. (Japanese spurge).

Evaluate the host range of the pest.

Score: 1

– Low (1) has a very limited host range.

– Medium (2) has a moderate host range.

– High (3) has a wide host range.

3) Pest Dispersal Potential: Calonectria pseudonaviculata has high reproductive potential.  Although its dispersal and spread over short distances to non-infected plants depends on wind-driven rain and water-splash, long distance spread occurs by movement of infected plants/nursery stock, infested plant debris, soil, contaminated tools and equipment, insects or birds. The disease may also be spread through the movement of asymptomatic (or with very limited outward symptoms) boxwood plants or plants treated with fungicides that suppress but do not kill or eliminate the inhabiting pathogen.  These modes of spread, plus the ability of the pathogen to survive in leaf debris on or beneath the soil surface for up to 5 years, places it as a ‘high risk’ in this category.

Evaluate the natural and artificial dispersal potential of the pest.

Score: 3

– Low (1) does not have high reproductive or dispersal potential.

– Medium (2) has either high reproductive or dispersal potential.

– High (3) has both high reproduction and dispersal potential.

4) Economic Impact: Boxwood blight disease could result in lower crop value, loss of foliage and plants, increased production costs, loss of markets, and changes in delivery of irrigation water so to avoid water splash and wetness of foliage.  Also, insects and birds could aid in spread of the pathogen to non-infected plants.  Therefore, economic impact, caused by the boxwood blight pathogen, is given a ‘High’ score.

Evaluate the economic impact of the pest to California using the criteria below.

Economic Impact: A, B, C, D, E.

A. The pest could lower crop yield.

B. The pest could lower crop value (includes increasing crop production costs).

C. The pest could trigger the loss of markets (includes quarantines).

D. The pest could negatively change normal cultural practices.

E. The pest can vector, or is vectored, by another pestiferous organism.

F. The organism is injurious or poisonous to agriculturally important animals.

G. The organism can interfere with the delivery or supply of water for agricultural uses.

Economic Impact Score: 3

– Low (1) causes 0 or 1 of these impacts.

– Medium (2) causes 2 of these impacts.

High (3) causes 3 or more of these impacts.

5) Environmental Impact: Infections of Calonectria pseudonaviculata could significantly affect private and commercial plantings of boxwood plants commonly used as hedge and shrub ornamentals and result in additional treatments against the pathogen.  Therefore, risk on environmental impact is scored as ‘High’.

Evaluate the environmental impact of the pest on California using the criteria below.

Environmental Impact: D, E.

A. The pest could have a significant environmental impact such as lowering biodiversity, disrupting natural communities, or changing ecosystem processes.

B. The pest could directly affect threatened or endangered species.

C. The pest could impact threatened or endangered species by disrupting critical habitats.

D. The pest could trigger additional official or private treatment programs.

E. The pest significantly impacts cultural practices, home/urban gardening or ornamental plantings.

Score the pest for Environmental Impact.

Environmental Impact Score: 2

– Low (1) causes none of the above to occur.

Medium (2) causes one of the above to occur.

– High (3) causes two or more of the above to occur.

Consequences of Introduction to California for Calonectria pseudonaviculata: Medium (11)

Add up the total score and include it here.

-Low = 5-8 points

Medium = 9-12 points

-High = 13-15 points

6) Post Entry Distribution and Survey Information: Presently, the boxwood blight pathogen has only been officially reported from one region, namely, San Mateo County. California.

Score: (-1)

-Not established (0) Pest never detected in California, or known only from incursions.

Low (-1) Pest has a localized distribution in California, or is established in one suitable climate/host area (region).

-Medium (-2) Pest is widespread in California but not fully established in the endangered area, or pest established in two contiguous suitable climate/host areas.

-High (-3) Pest has fully established in the endangered area, or pest is reported in more than two contiguous or non-contiguous suitable climate/host areas.

Final Score:

7) The final score is the consequences of introduction score minus the post entry distribution and survey information score: (Score)

Final Score:  Score of Consequences of Introduction – Score of Post Entry Distribution and Survey Information = Medium (10)



Conclusion and Rating Justification:

Based on the evidence provided above the proposed rating for Calonectria pseudonaviculata is B.


CABI, 2016.  Calonectria pseudonaviculata (buxus blight) full datasheet.

Crous, P.W., J. Z. Groenewald, and C. F. Hill.  2002.  Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum sp. nov. from New Zealand, and new Cylindrocladium records from Vietnam. Sydowia 54: 23-34.

Dart, N., M. A. Hansen, E. Bush, and C. Hong.  2012.  Boxwood blight: a new disease of boxwood found in the eastern U.S.  Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia State University Publications and Educational Resources PPWS-4.

Douglas, S. M.  2011.  Boxwood blight – a new disease for Connecticut and the U. S.  The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. .

Farr, D.F., and A. Y. Rossman.  2016.  Fungal Databases, Systematic Mycology and Microbiology Laboratory, ARS, USDA.  Retrieved December 1, 2016, from

Henricot, B., C. Gorton, G. Denton, and J. Denton. 2008. Studies on the control of Cylindrocladium buxicola using fungicides and host resistance. Plant Disease, 92(9):1273-1279.

Ivors, K. and A. LeBude.  2011.  A new pest to the U. S. ornamental industry: the “box blight” pathogen Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum = Cylindrocladium buxicola.  NC Pest Alert.

Ivors, K. L., L. W. Lacey, D. C. Milks, S. M. Douglas, M. K. Inman, R. E. Marra, and J. A. LaMondia.  2012.  First report of boxwood blight caused by Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum in the United States.  Plant Disease.  96: 1070.

Kosta, K.  2016.  Personal communication to J. Chitambar, CDFA Primary Plant Pathologist/Nematologist via email on November 30, 2016, 5:03:15 pm.

LaMondia, J. A., D. W. Li, R. E. Marra, and S. M. Douglas.  2012.  First report of Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum causing leaf spot of Pachysandra terminalis.  Plant Disease 96: 1069.

Lombard, L., P. W. Crous, B. D. Wingfield, and M. J. Wingfield.  2010.  Phylogeny and systematics of the genus Calonectria.  Studies in Mycology. 66: 31-69. , doi:10.3114/sim.2010.66.03

USDA-NCSU.  (Date not known).  The ‘box blight’ pathogen: Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum = Cylindrocladium buxicola (Teleo.  Calonectria pseudonaviculata).  Datasheet developed by USDA-APHI-PPQ-CPHST and NCSU Department of Plant Pathology, Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center (MHCREC) staff.

USDA PCIT.  2016.  USDA Phytosanitary Certificate Issuance & Tracking System.

Responsible Party:

John J. Chitambar, Primary Plant Pathologist/Nematologist, California Department of Food and Agriculture, 3294 Meadowview Road, Sacramento, CA 95832. Phone: 916-262-1110,[@]

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Pest Rating: B

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