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Tobacco Rattle Virus

Updated August 04, 2023
Professional headshot of Madalyn Shires

Madalyn Shires

Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Plant Pathology Specialist

Written collaboratively by Madalyn Shires and Sara Ogan.


Tobacco rattle virus (abbreviated as TRV) is a common ornamental and vegetable virus. Some of the common ornamental hosts are bleeding hearts (Figure 1), peonies, tulips, marigolds, and hostas.

Bleeding heart plant with ringspots on leaves.
Figure 1. Tobacco rattle virus on a bleeding heart plant. Courtesy: John Fisher, Ohio Department of Agriculture,

Common vegetable hosts include beans, peppers, potatoes, and beets. Tobacco rattle virus is also called peony ringspot virus, potato corky ringspot virus, and aster ringspot virus.

Viral Information

Tobacco rattle virus is in the genus Tobravirus, which has two other viral species in it. TRV replicates in the cytoplasm of plant cells and then moves from cell to cell until it reaches the phloem, starting a systemic infection. Systemic infection of plants means that all plant parts are infected, including roots, crown tissue, and leaves.


At least 40% of infected plants are asymptomatic, meaning that the plants have the virus but do not ever develop symptoms. This can make control of the virus very difficult, as asymptomatic plants are still able to serve as a source of TRV. When plants do develop symptoms, the most-common associated symptom for ornamentals is ringspot on leaves (Figure 2, Figure 3). In vegetables, ringspot, mottling, and necrotic fleck symptoms may also be observed. These symptoms are very common for all viruses, so it is important to submit plants for diagnostic testing if an accurate diagnosis is needed or desired. The affected host can also be a clue to the type of virus that is causing symptoms, as many viruses are host specific.

    In Hostas

    Hosta leaf with small ringspots throughout.
    Figure 2. Tobacco rattle virus symptoms of small ringspots on an infected hosta. Courtesy: John Elizabeth Dorman, State of Michigan,

    In Peonies

    Peony plant with ringspots on leaves.
    Figure 3. Symptoms of tobacco rattle virus on a peony found in Pierre, South Dakota during July 2023. Courtesy: Ruth Beck, Jackie Driscoll


    TRV is transmitted from infected plants to healthy plants in two ways. The most common movement is through stubby-root nematodes. Nematodes are free-living roundworms that move through the soil and feed on plant roots. The other method of viral spread is mechanical transmission. Mechanical transmission occurs whenever infected plant leaves touch or rub uninfected plant leaves through use of unclean tools that have virus particles on it, or through plant sap.


    Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment for viral infections in plants. To prevent the spread or movement of TRV, the soundest management practice is to remove symptomatic plants and to continue to monitor for new symptoms. Transmission of the virus can be slowed by utilizing good plant spacing to prevent touching, cleaning all garden and yard tools between each planting, and by not touching uninfected plants after contact with infected plants. It is impossible to treat or prevent nematodes in the soil, so there is no need for chemical or biological control in the soil. If TRV infections have been severe in an area, a soil test can be performed by plant diagnostic clinics to determine the number of stubby-root nematodes that are in an area.


    • Bonkowski, J. 2021. Tobacco Rattle Virus (TRV). Purdue University Landscape Report, Issue 21-07.
    • De Jong, W. Tobacco Rattle Virus (TRV)- Biology. Cornell University Publication.
    • South Dakota Plant Diagnostic Clinic.
    • Zweig, R. & Hudelson, B. 2010. Tobacco Rattle. Wisconsin Horticulture #XHT1180.

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