Yellow leaf disease (YLD) with phytoplasmal aetiology is a serious disease of arecanut palm in India. The present study was undertaken to characterize the 16S rRNA and secA gene sequences of the Indian arecanut YLD phytoplasma for ‘Candidatus
’ species assignment and 16Sr group/subgroup classification. Phytoplasma 16S rRNA genes were amplified using three sets of semi-nested/nested primers, 1F7/7R3–1F7/7R2, 4Fwd/3Rev–4Fwd/5Rev and P1/P7–R16F2n/R16R2, producing amplicons of 491, 1150 and 1250 bp, respectively, from diseased samples. The amplicons were cloned and sequenced. A blast search showed that the sequences had 99 % similarity with sugar cane white leaf phytoplasma (16SrXI) and Napier grass stunt phytoplasma (16SrXI). Phylogenetic analysis based on the 16S rRNA gene revealed the clustering of YLD phytoplasma with the rice yellow dwarf and Bermuda grass white leaf groups. The YLD phytoplasma F2nR2 sequence shared 97.5 % identity with that of ‘Candidatus
’ and 97.8 % identity with that of ‘Candidatus
’. Hence, for finer differentiation, we examined the secA gene-based phylogeny, where the YLD phytoplasma clustered with Napier grass stunt and sugar cane grassy shoot phytoplasmas, both belonging to the rice yellow dwarf group. Hence, we are assigning the Indian arecanut YLD phytoplasma as a ‘Candidatus
’-related strain. Virtual RFLP analysis of a 1.2 kb fragment of the 16S rRNA gene (F2nR2 region) identified the Indian arecanut YLD phytoplasma as a member of 16SrXI-B subgroup. We name the phytoplasma Indian yellow leaf disease phytoplasma, to differentiate it from the Hainan YLD phytoplasma, which belongs to group 16SrI.