From 'Fire Esca' to 'Esca of Grapevine'

A. Graniti


The use of tinder (‘esca’ or ‘amadou’) prepared from basidiocarps of some bracket fungi, e.g. Fomes
fomentarius and Phellinus igniarius as an easy-to-burn matter goes back to the man’s conquest of fire. Archaeological
finds, such as fragments of tinder, flint-stones and traces of pyrite carried by the ‘Ice man’ on his way across the Alps
more than 5,000 years ago, bear evidence of the use of tinder in the Neolithic age. In 1926, on the assumption that P.
igniarius was one of the pathogens of the so-called ‘apoplexy’ of grapevine, the name ‘esca’ was given to the disease.
For long time, esca was thought to affect old vines only. In the last decades, however, various forms of the disease
have been found to be widespread and to cause losses even to young vines. Aetiological studies have shown that esca
of grapevine is a complex disease, incited by wilt-inducing ascomycetes (Togninia, Phaeoacremonium, Phaeomoniella)
and/or the wood-decaying basidiomycete Fomitiporia mediterranea. Since the latter is not a tinder fungus, the advisability
of retaining the name ‘esca’ for the disease is discussed.

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