Bad news for oak forests of the Northwest; sudden oak death was detected in Oregon last month. Though it's unclear how it arrived, it's feared that this killer spread from the central California coast, where it has destroyed thousands of oak trees since 1994. A recent discovery of the infectious agent, the fungus Phytophthora ramorum, in rhododendrons has provided the first clue in what up until now has been the mysterious appearance of this deadly pathogen. Although Phytophthora's European relatives have a healthy genetic diversity, the California strain is remarkably nondiverse, says forest pathologist Matteo Garbelotto, University of California, Berkeley. The researchers' molecular studies revealed a single, highly successful genotype in isolates taken from Santa Cruz to Napa Valley, supporting the notion that the pathogen was introduced into the California ecosystem, possibly via the rhododendron. At the annual meeting of the American Phytopathological Society, in Salt Lake...

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