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Rusts are economically important fungal plant pathogens. For the majority of rust species, complete life history data, including host range, geographic distribution, plant response to the rust, identity of alternate hosts, and mode of sexual reproduction are incomplete. The purpose of this study was to examine the life history of Puccinia mariae-wilsoniae, a rust on Claytonia virginica (spring beauty), and to observe responses in leaf anatomy to its fungal pathogen. Spring beauty is an ephemeral woodland plant that lasts three to four weeks and P. mariae-wilsoniae infects C. virginica almost as soon as the plant emerges from dormancy in Spring. Population studies in March and April, 2012, as well as March and April, 2013, examined the abundance and spread of infection within several populations. Infected leaves, inflorescences, and corms with attached roots were collected, fixed in FAA, stored in 70% ethanol, embedded in paraffin, sectioned, and mounted on slides for anatomical study. While the presence of aecia and aeciospores has been reported in other studies, this project has demonstrated the presence of telia and teliospores on C. virginica leaves and inflorescences. Population studies demonstrate that there is not a strong correlation between population density and infection rate at Laursen's Woods and Baber's Woods, but there is a positive correlation at Rocky Branch Nature Preserve. DNA sequencing indicated that the rust infecting C. virginica is P. mariae-wilsoniae, while anatomical studies demonstrated changes in the location of fungal reproductive structures from previous observations with C. virginica.
Schlund, Sarah A., "Puccinia mariae-wilsoniae and Claytonia virginica: A Pathogen's Tale" (2013). Undergraduate Honors Theses. 51.