Phytoplasmas classified in group 16SrXII infect a wide range of plants and are transmitted by polyphagous planthoppers of the family Cixiidae. Based on 16S rRNA gene sequence identity and biological properties, group 16SrXII encompasses several species, including ‘Candidatus
’ and ‘Candidatus
’. Other group 16SrXII phytoplasma strains are associated with stolbur disease in wild and cultivated herbaceous and woody plants and with bois noir disease in grapevines (Vitis vinifera L.). Such latter strains have been informally proposed to represent a separate species, ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’, but a formal description of this taxon has not previously been published. In the present work, stolbur disease strain STOL11 (STOL) was distinguished from reference strains of previously described species of the ‘Candidatus
’ genus based on 16S rRNA gene sequence similarity and a unique signature sequence in the 16S rRNA gene. Other stolbur- and bois noir-associated (‘Ca. Phytoplasma solani’) strains shared >99 % 16S rRNA gene sequence similarity with strain STOL11 and contained the signature sequence. ‘Ca. Phytoplasma solani’ is the only phytoplasma known to be transmitted by Hyalesthes obsoletus. Insect vectorship and molecular characteristics are consistent with the concept that diverse ‘Ca. Phytoplasma solani’ strains share common properties and represent an ecologically distinct gene pool. Phylogenetic analyses of 16S rRNA, tuf, secY and rplV–rpsC gene sequences supported this view and yielded congruent trees in which ‘Ca. Phytoplasma solani’ strains formed, within the group 16SrXII clade, a monophyletic subclade that was most closely related to, but distinct from, that of ‘Ca.
’-related strains. Based on distinct molecular and biological properties, stolbur- and bois noir-associated strains are proposed to represent a novel species level taxon, ‘Ca. Phytoplasma solani’; STOL11 is designated the reference strain.