Phytophthora (from Greek phytón, “plant” and phthorá, “destruction, destruction”; “the plant-destroyer”) is a genus of plant-damaging Protisten of the Oomycetes (water moulds). Heinrich Anton de Bary described it for the first time in 1875.
Phytophthoras are mostly pathogens of dicotyledons, and are relatively host specific parasites. 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 Irish Famine (1845-1849). Plant diseases caused by this genus are difficult to control chemically, thus resistant cultivars are grown as a management strategy. Research beginning in the 1990s has placed some of the responsibility for European forest die-back on the activity of imported Asian Phytophthoras.
Other important Phytophthora diseases are:
- Phytophthora alni – causes alder root rot
- Phytophthora cactorum – causes rhododendron root rot affecting rhododendrons, azaleas and causes bleeding canker in hardwood trees
- Phytophthora cinnamomi - causes cinnamon root rot affecting woody ornamentals including arborvitae, azalea, Chamaecyparis, dogwood, forsythia, Fraser fir, hemlock, Japanese holly, juniper, Pieris, rhododendron, Taxus, white pine, and American chestnut
- Phytophthora fragariae - causes red root rot affecting strawberries
- Phytophthora palmivora - causes fruit rot in coconuts and betel nuts
- Phytophthora ramorum – infects over 60 plant genera and over 100 host species - causes Sudden Oak Death
- Phytophthora quercina – causes oak death
- Phytophthora sojae - causes soybean root rot
Phytophthora is sometimes referred to as a fungal-like organism but it is classified under a different kingdom altogether: Stramenopila (previously named Chromista). This is a good example of convergent evolution: Phytophthora is morphologically very similar to true Fungi yet its evolutionary history is quite distinct. In contrast to Fungi, stramenopiles are more closely related to plants than animals. Whereas Fungal cell walls are made primarily of chitin, stramenopile cell walls are constructed mostly of cellulose. Ploidy levels are different between these two kingdoms as are biochemical pathways.
Phytophthoras reproduce both sexually and asexually. They may be A1 or A2 mating type. Sporangia, zoospores, and chlamydospores are asexual. Oospores are sexual.
- Department of Environment and Conservation, Western Australia - Dieback 
- Lucas, J.A. et al. (eds.) (1991) Phytophthora based on a symposium held at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland September 1989. British Mycological Society, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, ISBN 0-521-40080-5 ;
- Erwin, Donald C. and Ribeiro, Olaf K. (1966) Phytophthora Diseases Worldwide American Phytopathological Society Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, ISBN 0-89054-212-0
- Erwin, Donald C. (1983) Phytophthora: its biology, taxonomy, ecology, and pathology American Phytopathological Society Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, ISBN 0-89054-050-0
- "APHIS List of Regulated Hosts and Plants Associated with Phytophthora ramorum" U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services
- Goodwin, Stephen B. (January 2001) "Phytophthora Bibliography" Purdue University;
- Abbey, Tim (2005) "Phytophthora Dieback and Root Rot" College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Connecticut;