Cookies on Plantwise Knowledge Bank

Like most websites we use cookies. This is to ensure that we give you the best experience possible.


Continuing to use means you agree to our use of cookies. If you would like to, you can learn more about the cookies we use.

Plantwise Knowledge Bank

Your search results

Species Page

Sudden Oak Death (SOD)

Phytophthora ramorum
This information is part of a full datasheet available in the Crop Protection Compendium (CPC). Find out more information on how to access the CPC.
©CAB International. Published under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence.


You can pan and zoom the map
Save map
Select a dataset
Map Legends
  • CABI Summary Records
Map Filters
Third party data sources:

Host plants / species affected

Main hosts

show all species affected
Arbutus menziesii (Pacific madrone)
Heteromeles salicifolia (toyon)
Notholithocarpus densiflorus (Tanoak)
Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-fir)
Quercus agrifolia (California live oak)
Quercus chrysolepis (Canyon live oak)
Quercus falcata (red oak)
Quercus kelloggii (California black oak)
Quercus parvula var. shrevei
Vaccinium ovatum (Box blueberry)

List of symptoms / signs

Growing point - dieback
Growing point - discoloration
Growing point - lesions
Growing point - wilt
Leaves - abnormal colours
Leaves - abnormal leaf fall
Leaves - necrotic areas
Leaves - wilting
Leaves - yellowed or dead
Stems - canker on woody stem
Stems - dieback
Stems - discoloration
Stems - discoloration of bark
Stems - gummosis or resinosis
Stems - internal discoloration
Stems - necrosis
Stems - odour
Stems - visible frass
Whole plant - discoloration
Whole plant - frass visible
Whole plant - plant dead; dieback
Whole plant - uprooted or toppled


P. ramorum causes three distinct types of disease with corresponding symptoms.

Stem Cankers (Rizzo et al., 2002a).

The cankers resemble those caused by other Phytophthora species. Discoloration can be seen in the inner bark, the cambium and within the first few sapwood rings, in some hosts causing blockage or disruption of the vascular system (Parke et al., 2007). Discoloration is always associated with the cankers, but its intensity is extremely variable, ranging from dark-brown, almost black, lesions to slight discoloration of the infected tree tissue. Black zone lines are often, but not always, present at the edge of the cankers. Smaller tanoaks (Notholithocarpus densiflorus) tend not to have any zone lines. Most notably, P. ramorum cankers stop abruptly at the soil line, and there are few reports of root infection in tanoak. Viburnum is the only host in which root collar infection is common (Werres et al., 2001) and root infection is only reported for Rhododendrons (Parke and Lewis, 2007). Typical bleeding symptoms can be seen on the outside of the cankers. Bleeding is not necessarily associated with cracks or wounds, and tends to be rather viscous in consistency. A distinct fermentation smell (or alcoholic smell) emanates from bark seeps. Intensity and viscosity of bleeding changes with time. Older cankers may display a thin, brown-amber crust where seeps were originally present. Crown symptoms are often associated with expansion rate of cankers. Rapidly expanding cankers rapidly girdle the tree. In this case, there is no real crown decline, but once the tree has exhausted the resources accumulated in its aerial part, the whole crown browns. Normally this browning occurs 1-4 years post infection. The entire foliage turns orange-brown and then becomes grey with time. The name 'sudden oak death' was coined because of the high frequency of rapidly declining trees. In the phase between girdling and apparent death of the crown, secondary processes are initiated. These include growth and fruiting of Annulohypoxylon thouarsianum, syn. Hypoxylon thouarsianum. A. thouarsianum will cause a mottled decay of portions of the sapwood and will fruit abundantly on the bark. Other secondary processes include attacks by bark and ambrosia beetles and acceleration of decay processes, at times with basidiocarps produced on trees which are still green.

When cankers are slow-growing, typical decline symptoms can be seen in the crown and include: chlorosis of the foliage, premature leaf abscission resulting in sparse crowns, and sometimes dieback of branches corresponding to portions of the stem affected by the canker. Epicormic shoots are often associated with both types of cankers (slow and fast). On oak species, most cankers are found within 1 m of the root collar, but cankers higher up on the stem and on major branches are not uncommon, especially if oak branches are intertwined with California bay laurel branches. Oak leaves, twigs, and juvenile plants are rarely infected. Tanoak cankers tend to be present throughout the vertical length of the tree and most trees have multiple cankers on them. Plants of all ages can be infected and killed. Leaves and twigs can also be infected. Foliar infection can precede or follow twig infection and it results in leaf spotting and a characteristic blackening of the main rib of the leaf, with lesions continuing into the petiole.

Leaf Blight and Branch Dieback (Rizzo et al., 2002b; Garbelotto et al., 2003).

Leaves develop lesions often associated with twig dieback. The primary infection court can be either in the twig or in the leaf. Cankers develop on branches. Symptoms on leaves develop rather rapidly, with watersoaked lesions developing mainly along the mid-vein of the leaf, and may result in death of the leaf. Rhododendron spp., Pieris spp. and Rhamnus spp. display these symptoms. In ericaceous hosts with small leaves (e.g. Vaccinium ovatum and Arctostaphylos spp.), foliar symptoms are not as pronounced. Leaf abscission and cane cankers are more common, resulting in the death of clumps of branches. Symptoms on coniferous hosts such as Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Grand fir (Abies grandis) fall into this general category. In these two hosts, branch tips are typically affected. Branch tips, especially the last year's growth, are girdled and will wilt. Needles hang from the infected branch at first and then will drop, leaving a barren branch tip appearing similar to browse injury.

Leaf Spots, Blotches, and Scorches (Rizzo et al., 2002b; Garbelotto et al., 2003).

In some hosts, the disease affects leaves but not the twigs or branches. Lesions are normally associated with the accumulation of water on the leaf. These symptoms are in general rather nondescript. Lesions on Umbellularia californica are generally dark in colour, often at the leaf tip where water accumulates, but can also be on the blade or near the petiole depending how the leaf is carried and on where water accumulates. Lesions are generally demarcated by an irregular margin, often followed by a chlorotic halo. Premature chlorosis of the entire leaf, followed by its abscission, is common in drier areas. Infection in Aesculus californica starts as light circular spots, coalescing into large blotches often affecting the whole leaf, and at times the petiole. In Acer macrophyllum, symptoms appear as a marginal leaf scorch. The scorch does not, at least initially, affect the whole leaf contour, and scorched portions are interrupted by healthy areas.

On redwood the disease affects mostly needles of the lower branches. Needles appear to be infected individually, and often partially infected needles will display a black demarcation line between healthy and diseased tissue. Such lines can be developed either longitudinally following the length of the needle, or transversally across the width of the needle. Eventually, most needles in a portion of the branch may be infected and die. In general, dead needles remain attached to the branches. Basal sprouts of redwood can sometimes be girdled, cankers will appear as a dark lesion, and the entire portion of the sprout above the lesion will desiccate.

Prevention and control

Best management practices for P. ramorum are available at: and at

-Removal of California bay laurels (Garbelotto et al., 2017), tanoaks (Cobb et al., 2017) and Japanese larch (O’Hanlon et al., 2018) have all been shown to be effective.

-Employment of disease tolerant plants (Hayden et al., 2013; Conrad and Bonello, 2016; Cobb et al., 2019) holds significant promise and some results have been produced on higher survival of tanoak recruitment using disease tolerance.

-Planting non-susceptible species and other strategies are being developed to prevent or manage P. ramorum in wildlands (Lee et al., 2010; Swain and Alexander, 2010; Cobb et al. 2019).

-It has been shown that fresh wounds will be optimal infection courts; pruning of large branches or of stems should occur in the autumn, months in California before the rain-driven spread of P. ramorum occurs, or 4 months before the infectious period in other parts of the world.

-In restoration projects, avoid bay laurel (Umbellularia californica) if possible, especially in areas where oaks may be growing. Eradication has been attempted in southern Oregon, USA, via the burn-and-slash technique (Goheen et al., 2002b).

- Kiln drying: 55°C for 30 minutes was insufficient to kill the pathogen. At least 1 hour is required but only for substrates without abundant chlamydospores such as wood. If substrate supports chlamydospores 2 weeks at 55°C were necessary to kill the pathogen. However, vacuum plus exposure at 55°C, together killed the pathogen after 22 hours (Harnik et al., 2004).

- Composting following EPA guidelines for California is completely successful in eliminating the pathogen (Swain et al., 2006), however mature compost can be re-infected by the pathogen if exposed to large amounts of inoculum (Swain and Garbelotto, 2015).

- P. ramorum is susceptible to label-dosages of copper sulfates and copper hydroxides (Garbelotto et al., 2009). In different formulations it is moderately susceptible to mancozeb. The pathogen is sensitive to phosphites or phosphonates. Phosphite injections are effective in oaks for 2 years (Garbelotto and Schmidt, 2009) and also temporarily in tanoaks (Notholithocarpus densiflorus). Phosphite foliar sprays are not effective on oaks and tanoaks. The pathogen is extremely sensitive to metalaxyl, but drenches and foliar sprays are ineffective in oaks (Garbelotto et al., 2007; Garbelotto et al., 2009).

- Water and moisture management are extremely important, especially when temperatures are between 15 and 20°C. Infection on bay (Umbellularia californica) leaves requires 9-12 hours of leaf wetness. Oak infection requires 250 mm of rain in for 3-6 weeks and at least 1 week when max temperature daily reaches 20°C (Garbelotto et al., 2017).

- Natural contagion from oaks is estimated to be low: susceptible oaks should not be planted near foliar hosts like bays and rhododendrons.

- Early infection can be detected on foliar hosts: new infection on bay leaves are good signs of inoculum level.

- Sites, soil and streams can be monitored by baiting with rhododendron leaves (Davidson et al., 2002c).

- Removal of California bays 10 and 20 m around oaks has been proven highly effective in reducing possible infection events and remains the main prescription to preventatively protect oaks from becoming infected (Garbelotto et al., 2017).

- Sanitation of small tools such as axes, hand saws or chain saws is best done by removing all organic debris, followed, if desired,by treatment with lysol, 70% ethanol, or a 10% dilution of commercial bleach.