"So, naturalists observe, a flea has smaller fleas that on him prey; and these have smaller still to bite ’em; and so proceed ad infinitum."
- Jonathan Swift

May 10, 2010

May 10 - Hemileia vastatrix

Monday mornings would be impossible without coffee, so I have a real issue with this parasite, known as Hemileia vastatrix, or coffee rust. This species of fungus attacks the leaves of the coffee plant (Coffea arabica), but not the fruit or other parts. It was first discovered in East Africa, but since then has spread to most of the other major coffee-growing regions of the world, such as Java, and Brazil. This parasite, in fact, might get some credit for the fact that Brits now drink so much tea. In the 1870's and 1880's, an epidemic of coffee rust essentially destroyed coffee production in many parts of Africa and Asia, including many countries that were British colonies. Some places, such as Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylong) upped their tea production instead.


  1. Oooooh, plant parasite week. Even better than shark week!!!

    I'm not sure if you take requests, but if you do i'd love to see an oomycete featured. Thought to be fungi but recently placed within the Stramenopiles, they are just starting to yield some interesting insights into plastid origins and evolution (in addition to being wicked cool pathogens).

  2. Yes - absolutely - was just thinking a couple of weeks ago that I should do an oomycete. (I'm a big fan of protists...)