Taxonomy of Phytophthora palmivora on cocoa

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Transactions of the British Mycological Society, Volume 72, Issue 1, p.111 - 143 (1979)



Morphological and physiological studies-chromosome type, colony morphology and growth rate on carrot agar, cocoa pod lesion characteristics, morphology and size of sporangia, sporangial pedicels, chlamydospores and sex organs, compatibility type, growth on a synthetic medium, response to Trichoderma, and temperature relations-were made with c. 950 Phytophthora isolates from cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) attributed to P. palmivora (Butl.) Butl. The survey covered isolates from all the major cocoa growing areas of the world, and included isolates studied by C. H. Gadd and S. F. Ashby in the 1920s.

The majority of the isolates could be assigned to one of three distinct forms, termed S, L and MF4. The S-type is attributed here to P. palmivora, which is redefined. Both L and MF4 are considered to be distinct species of Phytophthora. The L-type could not be identified with any known species and is described here as P. megakarya sp.nov. P. palmivora occurred world-wide on cocoa, whereas P. megakarya was obtained only from West Africa and MF4 only from Central and South America and the West Indies.

Isolates attributed to P. palmivora from other hosts were also examined. Some isolates from rubber, coconut and durian were P. palmivora (S-type). Isolates from pepper comprised a group closely resembling MF4. Isolates from coconut and rubber originally attributed to P. palmivora by S. F. Ashby, C. H. Gadd and E. M. Blackwell comprised a further group, and were also attributed here to P. palmivora, yet were somewhat different morphologically from the S-type on cocoa. It is not clear which of these two types is authentic P. palmivora.

The significance of these results, and the value of the various diagnostic criteria used, is discussed.