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WSU Puyallup Symptom Identification Guides

Symptom Guide: Viburnum species

Phytophthora (fy-toff-thor-uh)

Phytophthora species are microscopic organisms that cause disease in many plant species, including Camellia species.

You can learn more about Phytophthora and Sudden Oak Death at the links below.

Viburnum Species

Viburnum species and cultivars that have been found positive for P. ramorum in Washington State include:

  • Viburnum tinus “Spring Bouquet”
  • Viburnum davidii
  • Viburnum plicatum “Mariesii”

Phytophthora ramorum Symptoms

Symptoms on viburnum foliage, like on other hosts, resemble those of sunscald or fungal infection. Lesions due to P. ramorum tend to form where water collects and usually involve the petiole. A leaf lesion can grow through the leaf, into the petiole, and into the branch, causing a canker. Cankers develop on the stem near the soil line and on branches. As the canker expands, leaves attached to the branch die and defoliate. When the branch is girdled by the canker, the remaining leaves wilt and turn brown, usually staying attached to the stem. Occasionally bleeding is seen on infected stems.

Foliar blight on Viburnum caused by P. ramorum
Foliar blight on Viburnum caused by P. ramorum
Viburnum shoot blight and dieback caused by P. ramorum
Viburnum shoot blight and dieback caused by P. ramorum
Infection of viburnum stem coming from P. ramorum on the roots
Infection of viburnum stem coming from P. ramorum on the roots

Other Factors

Other diseases

  • Other diseases that appear similar are foliar blight caused by grey mold (Botrytis cinerea). The spots first appear at the leaf margins, then spread to the rest of the leaf. Infected flower clusters or twigs are killed.
  • A bacterial infection can cause small water-soaked lesions on leaves and stems, and can resemble a P. ramorum infection. Several fungi cause leaf spots including the fungi Cercospora spp., Phoma spp. and Phyllosticta spp.
  • Anthracnose is caused by various fungi and appears as black, sunken lesions is fairly common on viburnum foliage.
  • Fungal leaf spots on viburnum typically are angular to irregular-shaped, and the leaf tissue in the spots is sunken and dry, where P. ramorum lesions are often water-soaked and have diffuse margins. Spots may begin small, but enlarge or merge together, and may be reddish to grayish brown. Fungal leaf spots typically occur during warm, moist summer months, and initially will occur on older foliage.
  • root damage caused by other Phytophthora diseases will cause wilting of the whole plant in a similar manner to a girdling stem canker.

Abiotic conditions

  • Abiotic conditions such as frost damage will cause blackening of young shoots and dieback.
  • Drought stress caused by lack of water, anaerobic conditions from flooding

Conditions predisposing plants to Botryosphaeria dieback and canker

  • Viburnum plants suffering from drought and other stresses are susceptible to Botryosphaeria dieback and canker, caused by Botryosphaeria spp. Healthy plants are much more resistant to infection by Botryosphaeria spp., as they will wall off the fungus and prevent its spread through the branch. Under the bark the wood is stained brown, as with a Phytophthora infection. The cankers are small initially, but enlarge or coalesce into large areas that girdle the branch or trunk. Water movement is stopped beyond that point and results in a rapid wilting or browning of foliage. Branches with cankers may fail to leaf out in the spring.

More Resources

Learn more about Sudden Oak Death

More information, including links to youtube videos, about Sudden Oak Death is available here. You can also find information for specific audiences (e.g. nursery professionals, garden managers, master gardeners, etc.) on our Sudden Oak Death Education Program webpage.

View more online symptom guides

There are many additional photos of symptoms on Camellia species in the other guides we have provided here. Viewing multiple photos of symptoms on Camellia species may help you determine if Phytophthora ramorum is involved.


Visit our webpage for Nursery Productions if you are looking for Best Management Practices for managing Phytophthora ramorum. These practices are also useful for managing other Phytophthora diseases, such as those that cause root disease, which can be more damaging than P. ramorum on their hosts.

Plant Disease Diagnostics

Guidelines for submitting a sample

Visit our Sample Submissions Guidelines webpage for information to help determine whether it will be helpful to submit a plant sample for professional diagnostics.

WSU Plant and Insect Diagnostic Laboratory

The WSU Plant Clinic can provide diagnostic services to identify the cause of symptoms on Rhododendrons and other plant species.

Click here to read their instructions for submitting a sample.

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