Susceptibility of New Zealand flora to Phytophthora kernoviae and its seasonal variability in the field

Publication Type:

Journal Article


New Zealand Journal of Forestry Science, Volume 45 (2015)




The oomycete Phytophthora kernoviae is known from the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, where it is considered to be a recent invader, from Chile where it was only discovered in 2014, and New Zealand where records date back to 1953. As there is little information in New Zealand linking P. kernoviae with plant disease, it may have been present for much longer and may be indigenous. Seasonal activity of P. kernoviae in a site known to have infested soil was tested by isolation from soil and foliage of existing shrubs and the use of indicator plants. In greenhouse studies, the susceptibility of a range of indigenous plants to P. kernoviae was tested via stem and foliar inoculation.


Soil, litter and understorey vegetation samples were collected for isolation of P. kernoviae at monthly intervals for a year. Plants of Rhododendron catawbiense, which is known to be susceptible to foliar and shoot infection, were placed in the stand as indicator species. In laboratory and greenhouse studies, stem and foliar inoculations of a selection of arborescent plants representing major groups within the New Zealand flora were carried out and compared with three exotic plants of known susceptibility.


Phytophthora kernoviae was not isolated from foliage of understorey plants at the study site, but it was recovered from soil and litter from April to November (autumn through spring) inclusive. Little disease developed on the Rhododendron catawbiense indicator plants.

All of the exotic, and most of the indigenous, species developed a lesion in response to stem inoculation. Stem lesions were more developed on exotic species than on indigenous hosts. In contrast, few species formed foliar symptoms. Phytophthora kernoviae was recovered from asymptomatic tissue, stems and foliage, of a number of species.


Based on the results of the inoculations and the lack of historical records of disease of indigenous plants associated with P. kernoviae, this oomycete does not appear to be a damaging pathogen of New Zealand’s indigenous flora. Although presence in the soil or litter was demonstrated at the study site, little disease developed on the indicator plants suggesting that at least part of the New Zealand population is of low pathogenicity to R. catawbiense.