Plant pathology has a long-standing tradition of classifying microbes as pathogens, endophytes or saprophytes. Lifestyles of pathogens are categorized as biotrophic, necrotrophic or hemibiotrophic. Botrytis species are considered by many to be archetypal examples of necrotrophic fungi, with B.¿cinerea being the most extensively studied species because of its broad host range and economic impact. In this review, we discuss recent work which illustrates that B.¿cinerea is capable of colonizing plants internally, presumably as an endophyte, without causing any disease or stress symptoms. The extent of the facultative endophytic behaviour of B.¿cinerea and its relevance in the ecology and disease epidemiology may be vastly underestimated. Moreover, we discuss the recent discovery of a novel Botrytis species, B.¿deweyae, which normally grows as an endophyte in ornamental daylilies (Hemerocallis), but displays facultative pathogenic behaviour, and is increasingly causing economic damage. We propose that the emergence of endophytes ‘gone rogue’ as novel diseases may be related to increased inbreeding of hybrid lines and reduced genetic diversity. These observations lead us to argue that the sometimes inflexible classification of pathogenic microbes by their lifestyles requires serious reconsideration. There is much more variety to the interactions of Botrytis with its hosts than the eye (or the plant pathologist) can see, and this may be true for other microbes interacting with plants.
- disease development
- gray mold