Quantification of the susceptibility of the native flora of the South-West Botanical Province, Western Australia, to Phytophthora cinnamomi

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Australian Journal of Botany, Volume 52 (4), p.435 - 443 (2004)




This study compares, for the first time, variation in estimates of susceptibility of native flora to Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands among four databases and proposes an estimate of the proportion of the flora of the South-West Botanical Province of Western Australia that is susceptible to the pathogen. Estimates of the susceptibility of south-western native flora to P. cinnamomi infection were obtained from databases for Banksia woodland of the Swan Coastal Plain, jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata Donn. ex Smith) forest, the Stirling Range National Park and Rare and Threatened Flora of Western Australia. For the woodland, forest and national park databases, hosts were naturally infected in uncontrolled diverse natural environments. In contrast, threatened flora were artificially inoculated in a shadehouse environment. Considerable variation occurred within taxonomic units, making occurrence within family and genus poor predictors of species susceptibility. Identification of intra-specific resistance suggests that P. cinnamomi could be having a strong selection pressure on some threatened flora at infested sites and the populations could shift to more resistant types. Similar estimates of the proportion of species susceptible to P. cinnamomi among the databases from the wide range of environments suggests that a realistic estimate of species susceptibility to P. cinnamomi infection in the south-western region has been obtained. The mean of 40% susceptible and 14% highly susceptible equates to 2284 and 800 species of the 5710 described plant species in the South-West Botanical Province susceptible and highly susceptible to P. cinnamomi, respectively. Such estimates are important for determining the cost of disease to conservation values and for prioritising disease importance and research priorities. P. cinnamomi in south-western Australia is an unparalleled example of an introduced pathogen with a wide host range causing immense irreversible damage to unique, diverse but mainly susceptible plant communities.