Phytophthora lateralis

Hansen, E.M. 2011. Phytophthora lateralis. Forest Phytophthoras 1(1). doi: 10.5399/osu/fp.1.1.1816

Phytophthora lateralis


Phytophthora lateralis was named by Tucker and Milbrath in 1942. There are no known synonyms.  P. lateralis was classified in morphological group V by Stamps et al. (1990); the group includes homothallic species with paragynous antheridia and nonpapillate, proliferating sporangia.

Etymology: refers to the development of chlamydospores in a lateral or sessile position on the hyphae.


Sporangia (average 26–60 µm x 12–20 µm) in water are ovoid, obovoid, or obpyriform.  They are non-papillate and persistent, on simple sympodial sporangiophores with internal proliferation. Hyphal swellings are absent. Thin-walled chlamydospores (20–77 µm, average 40 µm) are formed in broth or agar. They are sub-globose to globose or irregular, terminal or intercalary, sometimes positioned laterally or are sessile on hyphae. Considered homothallic, but oogonia normally not seen in culture.

Terminal chlamydospore on short stalk (top). Lateral chlamydospore (bottom)
Sporangia with external proliferation (left) and internal proliferation (right).


Molecular studies place Phytophthora lateralis in clade 8 (Blair 2008), as a sister group to P. ramorum, although the two species are morphologically distinct.  More information about the phylogenetics of this species can be found at

Phylogenetic tree from (Blair et al 2008).


Temperature optimum ca. 20°C, min. <10°C, max. ca. 25°C.  Growth at 20°C on V8 agar 2.1 mm/d, on cornmeal agar with 20 ppm β-sitosterol 1.3 mm/d, on cornmeal agar with pimaricin, ampicillin, and rifampicin 0.6 mm/d, potato dextrose agar 1.4 mm/d.

Growth morphology at 14 days  on V8 (left) and potato dextrose agar (right).

Distinguishing characteristics for identification

Colony morphology on V8 agar is nearly patternless and appressed with no aerial hyphae.  In combination with the lower maximum temperature for growth, this feature is especially useful in distinguishing P. lateralis from taxon “pg chlamydo” which also forms lateral chlamydospores.  Microscopically on CMAB hyphae are usually tortuous, irregularly branched, and often irregularly swollen. Sporangia develop on washed mycelial mats grown in pea broth and transferred to natural stream water. Occasionally isolates exhibit caducous sporangia.

The searchable web-based database Phytophthora-ID is useful for rapid identification of Phytophthora species based on sequencing of the ITS or Cox spacer regions, followed by BLAST searching the database. Phytophthora-ID maintains a database of sequences that is selective for sequence accessions that come from trusted sources including published, peer-reviewed studies whenever possible.

Disease History

Port-Orford-cedar (POC) root disease was first reported on ornamental cedars in the USA Pacific Northwest near Seattle, Washington, in 1923, but the pathogen was not named until 1942 (Tucker and Milbrath 1942). P. lateralis was found in the native range of POC in about 1950 and by 1970 it had been spread throughout the tree’s range in Oregon (Zobel et al. 1985). It was first reported from California in 1980, and is now present in all areas where POC grows as a native forest tree (northern California and southwest Oregon) (Betlejewski et al. 2003).  P. lateralis was detected  in France in 1998 and the Netherlands in 2004 and 2010 on nursery-grown plants (Hansen et al. 1999, Meffert 2007, Netherlands Plant Protection Service 2010). A disease outbreak on hedgerow cedar trees has recently been reported in northwest France (Robin et al. 2010). It has also been reported in a country park on the shores of Loch Lomond in Scotland (BBC News Scotland 2010). Disturbingly, in Europe the pathogen appears to be spreading as windblown sporangia, causing foliar infections. The discovery of P. lateralis in an old growth Chamaecyparis obtusa forest in Taiwan (Brasier et al. 2010) suggests that this may be the geographic center of origin for the species.

Impacts in the Forest

The behavior of P. lateralis in Oregon and California clearly marks it as an exotic, invasive pathogen.  It is carried uphill and between watersheds in mud on vehicles and equipment.  Domestic and wild animals, as well as humans, also transport the pathogen.  Once introduced into a drainage, it washes downhill along stream courses, attacking and killing any POC encountered (Hansen et al. 2000, Jules et al. 2002).  In Europe, P. lateralis is now established in several countries and killing POC trees planted as windbreaks and in landscape plantings.  Although P. lateralis was recently discovered in forest soils in Taiwan, there are no acute disease symptoms in the native forests.

Port Orford Cedar mortality caused by P. lateralis (top), cut away basal canker (bottom).

Forest and Wildland Hosts and Symptoms

P. lateralis is essentially host specific on Port-Orford-cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana). Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) may also be killed when growing among diseased cedars, although more slowly (DeNitto and Kleijunas 1991, Murray and Hansen 1997). Other Chamaecyparis species and other Cupressaceae that have been tested are much more resistant, although C. nootkatensis (Alaska cedar) and Thuja occidentalis (Arborvitae) are rarely infected. Reports on other hosts from other parts of the world have proven to be based on misidentification, or otherwise impossible to confirm.  P. lateralis is found in landscape plantings throughout the Pacific Northwest (British Columbia to northern California) and increasingly in Europe. In the forest it has now spread throughout the native range of Port-Orford-cedar, which spans southwest Oregon and Northern California.

In Europe P. lateralis was reported from POC ornamental nursery stock in France (Hansen et al. 1999) and the Netherlands (Meffert 2007). It appeared to have been eradicated from those countries but was recently reported from landscape plantings in France and Scotland. In Asia (Taiwan), no acute disease or mortality of the host (Chamaecyparis obtusa var. formosana) by the pathogen has been observed in native forests.

Host Latin Name Host Common Name Symptoms Habitat Region
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana Port-Orford-cedar Root rot Ornamental Nursery France, Netherlands
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana Port-Orford-cedar Canker, Root rot Parklands France, Scotland
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana Port-Orford-cedar Root rot Forest, Ornamental Nursery, Parklands USA - Pacific Northwest
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana Port-Orford-cedar Root rot Ornamental Nursery, Parklands Canada
Chamaecyparis obtusa var. formosa Hinoki cedar None, found in streams or soil Forest Taiwan
Taxus brevifolia Pacific yew Root rot Forest USA - Pacific Northwest
Thuja occidentalis Arborvitae Canker Ornamental Nursery USA - Pacific Northwest

Education and Management Materials

Selected References

Blair, JE, Coffey MD, Park S-Y, Geiser DM, Kang S. 2008. A multi-locus phylogeny for Phytophthora utilizing markers derived from complete genome sequences. Fungal Genetics and Biology 45:266-277. doi:10.1016/j.fgb.2007.10.010

Brasier, CM, Vannini A, Chang TT, Vettraino AM. 2010. Phytophthora lateralis discovered in an old growth Chamaecyparis forest in Taiwan. Plant Pathology 59:595–603. doi:10.1046/j.1365-3059.2001.00553.x

DeNitto, GA, Kliejunas JT. 1991. First report of Phytophthora lateralis on Pacific yew. Plant Disease 75:968.

Englander, L, Roth LF. 1980. Interaction of light and sterol on sporangium and chlamydospore production by Phytophthora lateralis. Phytopathology 70(7):650-654.

Greenup, M. 1998. Managing Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (Port-Orford-Cedar) to control the root disease caused by Phytophthora lateralis in the Pacific Northwest, USA. Pages 93–100 in: Coastally Restricted Forests (A. D. Laderman, ed.).Oxford University Press, NY.

Grünwald, NJ, Martin FN, Larsen MM, Sullivan CM, Press CM, Coffey MD, Hansen EM, Parke JL. 2011. a sequence-based Phytophthora identification tool. Plant Disease 95:337-342.

Hamm, PB, Hansen EM. 1984. Improved method for isolating Phytophthora lateralis from soil. Plant Disease 68(6):517-519.

Hansen, EM, Hamm PB, Roth LF. 1989. Testing Port-Orford-cedar for resistance to Phytophthora. Plant Disease 73:791–794. doi:10.1094/PD-73-0791

Hansen, EM, Hamm PB. 1996. Survival of Phytophthora lateralis in infected roots of Port Orford cedar. Plant Disease 80:1075–1078.

Hansen, EM, Streito J-C, Delatour C. 1999. First confirmation of Phytophthora lateralis in Europe. Plant Disease 83:587-587.

Hansen, EM. 2008. Alien forest pathogens: Phytophthora species are changing world forests. Boreal Environment Research 13:33–41.

Ho, HH. 1981. Synoptic keys to the species of Phytophthora. Mycologia 73(4):705-714. doi:10.2307/3759497

Kliejunas, JT, Adams DH. 1981. Phytophthora root rot of Port-Orford-cedar in California. Plant Disease 65:446–447. doi:10.1094/PD-65-446

Robin, C, Piou D, Feau N, Douzon G, Schenck N, Hansen EM. 2010. Root and aerial infections of Chamaecyparis lawsoniana by Phytophthora lateralis: a new threat for European countries. Forest Pathology 41(5):417–424. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0329.2010.00688.x

Roth, LF, Harvey RD, Kliejunas JT. 1987. Port-Orford-Cedar Disease. USDA Forest Service PNW Region. Forest Pest Management Report No. R6 FPM PR 010 91.

Stamps, DJ, Waterhouse GM, Newhook FJ, Hall GS. 1990. Revised tabular key to the species of Phytophthora. Mycological Papers 162:1-28.

Torgeson, DC, Young RA, Milbrath JA. 1954. Phytophthora root rot diseases of Lawson cypress and other ornamentals. Oregon State College Agricultural Experiment Station Bull. 537. 18pp.

Tucker, CM and Milbrath, JA. 1942. Root rot of Chamaecyparis caused by a species of Phytophthora. Mycologia 34: 94-103. doi:10.2307/3754945

Webber, JF, Vettraino AM, Chang TT, Bellgard SE, Brasier CM, Vannini A. 2011. Isolation of Phytophthora lateralis from Chamaecyparis foliage in Taiwan. Forest Pathology doi:10.1111/j.1439-0329.2011.00729.x

Winton, LM, Hansen EM. 2001. Molecular diagnosis of Phytophthora lateralis in trees, water, and foliage baits using multiplex polymerase chain reaction. Forest Pathology 31:275-283. doi:10.1046/j.1439-0329.2001.00251.x

Zobel, DB, Roth LF, Hawk GM. 1985. Ecology, pathology and management of Port-Orford cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana). Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-184. USDA Forest Service. 161 pp.