The dangerous Phytophthora

The dangerous Phytophthora

By Lidia Boque Gousgouni
15 Nov 2017

Phytophthora spp. is a microscopic organism in the soil that attacks the root systems of plants and causes die back and plant death.  As the pathogen is microscopic and in the soil, early detection is difficult. Symptoms include wilting, yellowing and retention of dried foliage and darkening of root colour and die back.

Phytopthora is very destructive in Australian native plants. It can be extremely detrimental, as a lot of rare and endangered species are susceptible to it. When an area of bushland is affected, it can cause a permanent decline in the diversity. The change in habitat causes a decline in the native animals that rely on the susceptible plants for survival. Due to the pathogens longevity in the soil, it decreases the chances of these plants to grow back, creating a long-term effect on the poor health of the bushland.

It prefers warm wet soils, especially in areas with poor drainage - favoured for germination of spores.  The pathogen is very easily spread by the movement of contaminated soil or plant material into a different area. Either by natural means; rainfall, floods and or by mechanical; humans, digging, planting, on machinery, equipment, and clothes.  It is permanent, there is no chemical to eradicate it, but there are some treatments and practices that can help control its spread.

While Australian natives are more susceptible to Phythpthora, the aggressive pathogen doesn’t discriminate, it can affect any type of plants, from your fruit trees to your roses. So not only does it have a detrimental effect on our bushland but it can also be a problem in your backyard, which is why some necessary precautions should be in place. If you’re introducing soil, gravel, mulch, including potting mix to your home ensure it is Phyophthora free!  Don’t spread soil or mud around bushland, and monitor the signage that is around you as it might be a quarantined zone that you need to stay out of.  If you do enjoy bushwalking, riding or driving make sure to stay on the designated tracks and rinse off/wash any dirt before you return home.  It helps if you clean soil off your vehicles before you go into an uninfected area to minimise spread. For home gardening, make sure to wash any tools and equipment after use.

These precautions won't only have a positive effect on reducing Phytophthora’s spread. It can also help minimise any other infestations from other pests, diseases, and weeds into your home and our environment - making for happy home gardeners and conservationists nationwide!


The Friends of the Albury Botanic Gardens are having a plant sale at the Gardens on Sunday 19th November, 11am to 2pm. 

The Sustainable Living Festival Plant and Garden Events – Tour of Our Native Garden Nursery.  26th November  11am – 12.30pm.  Meet at the waste transfer station  - Kane Road Wodonga.  Booking is essential on 0418579331.



A plant affected by Phytopthora, taking precautions can reduce the spread of this disease.


Written by 

Bree Meindl (Horticulture and CLM student at Wodonga TAFE)