Distribution of <i>Puccinia punctiformis </i>in above-ground tissue of <i>Cirsium arvense </i>(Californian thistle)
Cirsium arvense (Californian thistle) is a problematic weed in agricultural systems throughout New Zealand and the rust fungus Puccinia punctiformis is a potential biological control agent for this weed. Puccinia punctiformis can systemically infect thistles but the movement of the pathogen in planta is not fully understood. This research determined the level of infection in planta caused by P. punctiformis at a single time point. The concentration of P. punctiformis DNA in planta was determined to ascertain the location of the fungus within naturally field-infected C. arvense. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction was undertaken on above-ground symptomatic and asymptomatic C. arvense tissue at various locations within leaves (top, middle and bottom) and the main stem. All C. arvense shoots had detectable amounts of P. punctiformis but the concentration was 100× greater in symptomatic compared with asymptomatic shoots. In general, the concentration of fungus progressed up the leaves with a significant effect between locations (P<0.001). Puccinia punctiformis was found in planta but broadscale disease of C. arvense does not occur and the reason for this is unknown.