Phytophthora dieback Introduction

​​Phytophthora ('fy-toff-thora') dieback is an introduced pathogenic water mould. 

Its scientific name is Phytophthora cinnamomi but it is also known by the names: 

  • root rot
  • cinnamon fungus
  • jarrah dieback
  • wildflower dieback 

It is one of the worst invasive plant pathogens in the world, and in Australia is recognised as a Key Threatening Process that severely degrades susceptible vegetation communities and kills susceptible plants.

It is believed to have been introduced to Tasmania during early European settlement and is now well established in many areas of moorland, heathland and dry Eucalypt forest in Tasmania. 

Phytophthora dieback has the potential to significantly change the plant communities in these vegetation types. Many different species of plants are affected by the dieback, however plants from the heath (Ericaceae), pea flower (Fabaceae) banksia (Proteaceous) and grasstree (Xanthorrhoeaceae) families are particularly susceptible.

Some threatened plant species in Tasmania are known to be declining as a result of Phytophthora dieback and more threatened species could also be affected should the fungus be introduced to their populations.

People can transport the pathogen into new areas on dirt adhering to vehicles, items they are carrying or footwear. As the microscopic pathogen lies hidden from view within infected soil, it is best managed by precautionary cleaning of vehicles, footwear and equipment between sites you visit to ensure it is not transferred to uninfected bushland.

Colour photograph showing dead grasstrees infected with Phytophthora root rot.