Phytophthora porri on leek (Allium porrum)
Phytophthora porri on leek (Allium porrum)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Chromista
Phylum: Oomycota
Order: Peronosporales
Family: Peronosporaceae
Genus: Phytophthora
de Bary 1876[1]

See text

Rhododendron ponticum showing classic symptoms of Phytophthora kernoviae in the UK
Rhododendron ponticum showing classic symptoms of Phytophthora kernoviae in the UK

Phytophthora (from Greek φυτόν (phytón), "plant" and φθορά (phthorá), "destruction"; "the plant-destroyer") is a genus of plant-damaging oomycetes (water molds), whose member species are capable of causing enormous economic losses on crops worldwide, as well as environmental damage in natural ecosystems. As well as impacting large scale agriculture, Phytophthora is a nuisance to garden and indoor plant hobbyists as well as bonsai artists.[2] The cell wall of Phytophthora is made up of cellulose. The genus was first described by Heinrich Anton de Bary in 1875. Approximately 170 species have been described, although 100–500 undiscovered Phytophthora species are estimated to exist.[3]


Sudden oak death caused by Phytophthora ramorum
Sudden oak death caused by Phytophthora ramorum

Phytophthora spp. are mostly pathogens of dicotyledons, and many are relatively host-specific parasites. Phytophthora cinnamomi, though, infects thousands of species ranging from club mosses, ferns, cycads, conifers, grasses, lilies, to members of many dicotyledonous families. Many species of Phytophthora are plant pathogens of considerable economic importance. Phytophthora infestans was the infective agent of the potato blight that caused the Great Famine of Ireland, and still remains the most destructive pathogen of solanaceous crops, including tomato and potato.[4] The soya bean root and stem rot agent, Phytophthora sojae, has also caused longstanding problems for the agricultural industry. In general, plant diseases caused by this genus are difficult to control chemically, thus the growth of resistant cultivars is the main management strategy. Other important Phytophthora diseases are:

Research beginning in the 1990s has placed some of the responsibility for European forest die-back on the activity of imported Asian Phytophthoras.[8]

In 2019, scientists in Connecticut were conducting experiments testing various methods to grow healthier Fraser trees when they accidentally discovered a new species of Phytophthora, which they called Phytophthora abietivora. The fact that these scientists so readily discovered a new species further suggests that there could be many more species waiting to be discovered.[9]


The NCBI lists:[10]

Resemblance to fungi

Phytophthora is sometimes referred to as a fungus-like organism, but it is classified under a different clade altogether: SAR supergroup (Harosa) (also under Stramenopila and previously under Chromista). This is a good example of convergent evolution: Phytophthora is morphologically very similar to true fungi yet its evolutionary history is completely distinct. In contrast to fungi, SAR supergroup is more closely related to plants than to animals. Whereas fungal cell walls are made primarily of chitin, Phytophthora cell walls are constructed mostly of cellulose. Ploidy levels are different between these two groups; Phytophthora species have diploid (paired) chromosomes in the vegetative (growing, nonreproductive) stage of life, whereas fungi are almost always haploid in this stage. Biochemical pathways also differ, notably the highly conserved lysine synthesis path.


Phytophthora species may reproduce sexually or asexually. In many species, sexual structures have never been observed, or have only been observed in laboratory matings. In homothallic species, sexual structures occur in single culture. Heterothallic species have mating strains, designated as A1 and A2. When mated, antheridia introduce gametes into oogonia, either by the oogonium passing through the antheridium (amphigyny) or by the antheridium attaching to the proximal (lower) half of the oogonium (paragyny), and the union producing oospores. Like animals, but not like most true fungi, meiosis is gametic, and somatic nuclei are diploid. Asexual (mitotic) spore types are chlamydospores, and sporangia which produce zoospores. Chlamydospores are usually spherical and pigmented, and may have a thickened cell wall to aid in their role as a survival structure. Sporangia may be retained by the subtending hyphae (noncaducous) or be shed readily by wind or water tension (caducous) acting as dispersal structures. Also, sporangia may release zoospores, which have two unlike flagella which they use to swim towards a host plant.

Zoospores (and zoospores of Pythium, also in the Peronosporales) recognize not only hosts but particular locations on hosts.[13] Phytophthora zoospores recognize and attach to specific root surface regions.[13] This is a high degree of specificity at an early stage of cell development.[13]

The lifecycle of Phytophthora

Phytophthora forms: A: Sporangia. B: Zoospore. C: Chlamydospore. D: Oospore
Phytophthora forms: A: Sporangia. B: Zoospore. C: Chlamydospore. D: Oospore


  1. ^ Heinrich Anton de Bary, Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, ser. 2 12: 240 (1876)
  2. ^ "How To Save A Bonsai From Root Rot".
  3. ^ Brasier CM, 2009. Phytophthora biodiversity: how many Phytophthora species are there? In: Goheen EM, Frankel SJ, eds. Phytophthoras in Forests and Natural Ecosystems. Albany, CA, USA: USDA Forest Service: General Technical Report PSW-GTR-221, 101–15.
  4. ^ Nowicki, Marcin; et al. (17 August 2011), "Potato and tomato late blight caused by Phytophthora infestans: An overview of pathology and resistance breeding", Plant Disease, 96: 4–17, doi:10.1094/PDIS-05-11-0458, PMID 30731850
  5. ^ Brasier, C; Beales, PA; Kirk, SA; Denman, S; Rose, J (2005). "Phytophthora kernoviae sp. Nov., an invasive pathogen causing bleeding stem lesions on forest trees and foliar necrosis of ornamentals in the UK" (PDF). Mycological Research. 109 (Pt 8): 853–9. doi:10.1017/S0953756205003357. PMID 16175787.
  6. ^ Scott, PM; Burgess, TI; Barber, PA; Shearer, BL; Stukely, MJ; Hardy, GE; Jung, T (June 2009). "Phytophthora multivora sp. nov., a new species recovered from declining Eucalyptus, Banksia, Agonis and other plant species in Western Australia". Persoonia. 22: 1–13. doi:10.3767/003158509X415450. PMC 2789538. PMID 20198133.
  7. ^ "APHIS List of Regulated Hosts and Plants Associated with Phytophthora ramorum" U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services Archived 2006-12-12 at the Wayback Machine;
  8. ^ "Phytophthora: Asiatischer Pilz lässt die Bäume sterben" Süddeutschen Zeitung 11 May 2005
  9. ^ Li, DeWei; Schultes, Neil; LaMondia, James; Cowles, Richard (2019). "Phytophthora abietivora, A New Species Isolated from Diseased Christmas Trees in Connecticut, U.S.A." Plant Disease. American Phytopathological Society. 103 (12): 3057–3064. doi:10.1094/PDIS-03-19-0583-RE.
  10. ^ "Phytophthora". NCBI taxonomy. Bethesda, MD: National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  11. ^ a b Hong, C; Gallegly, M; Richardson, P; Kong, P; Moorman, G; Lea-Cox, J; Ross, D (June 2008). "Phytophthora irrigata and Phytophthora hydropathica, two new species from irrigation water at ornamental plant nurseries". Phytopathology Vol. 98, no. 6. Archived from the original on 2012-03-07. Retrieved 2016-10-10.
  12. ^ Hansen, Everett M.; Reeser, P. W.; Davidson, J. M.; Garbelotto, Matteo; Ivors, K.; Douhan, L.; Rizzo, David M. (2003). "Phytophthora nemorosa, a new species causing cankers and leaf blight of forest trees in California and Oregon, U.S.A" (PDF). Mycotaxon. 88: 129–138.
  13. ^ a b c Nicholson, Ralph L.; Epstein, Lynn (1991). "Adhesion of Fungi to the Plant Surface". In Cole, Garry T.; Hoch, Harvey C. (eds.). The Fungal Spore and Disease Initiation in Plants and Animals. Boston, Ma, USA. pp. 3–23/xxv+555. doi:10.1007/978-1-4899-2635-7_1. ISBN 978-1-4899-2635-7. OCLC 913636088. S2CID 82631781. ISBN 978-0-306-43454-9. ISBN 978-1-4899-2637-1.

Further reading