Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Phellinus noxius
(brown tea root disease)



Phellinus noxius (brown tea root disease)


  • Last modified
  • 22 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Phellinus noxius
  • Preferred Common Name
  • brown tea root disease
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Fungi
  •     Phylum: Basidiomycota
  •       Subphylum: Agaricomycotina
  •         Class: Agaricomycetes

Don't need the entire report?

Generate a print friendly version containing only the sections you need.

Generate report


Top of page
Left: a stump of a Leucaena tree with sporophores emerging from the mycelial sleeve above ground level. Right: cocoa tree with typical wilt symptoms caused by degradation of the root system due to infection with P. noxius.
TitleSymptoms (on trunk and leaves)
CaptionLeft: a stump of a Leucaena tree with sporophores emerging from the mycelial sleeve above ground level. Right: cocoa tree with typical wilt symptoms caused by degradation of the root system due to infection with P. noxius.
Left: a stump of a Leucaena tree with sporophores emerging from the mycelial sleeve above ground level. Right: cocoa tree with typical wilt symptoms caused by degradation of the root system due to infection with P. noxius.
Symptoms (on trunk and leaves)Left: a stump of a Leucaena tree with sporophores emerging from the mycelial sleeve above ground level. Right: cocoa tree with typical wilt symptoms caused by degradation of the root system due to infection with P. noxius.Anon.


Top of page

Preferred Scientific Name

  • Phellinus noxius (Corner) G. Cunn.

Preferred Common Name

  • brown tea root disease

Other Scientific Names

  • Fomes noxius Corner

International Common Names

  • English: brown cocoa root rot; brown root rot; stem rot of Hevea spp.; stem rot of oil palm

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Braune Wurzelfaeule

EPPO code

  • PHELNO (Phellinus noxius)

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Fungi
  •         Phylum: Basidiomycota
  •             Subphylum: Agaricomycotina
  •                 Class: Agaricomycetes
  •                     Subclass: Agaricomycetidae
  •                         Order: Hymenochaetales
  •                             Family: Hymenochaetaceae
  •                                 Genus: Phellinus
  •                                     Species: Phellinus noxius


Top of page Basidioma perennial, solitary or imbricate, sessile with a broad basal attachment, commonly resupinate. Pileus 5-13 x 6-25 x 2-4 cm, applanate, dimidiate or appressed-reflexed; upper surface deep reddish-brown to umbrinous, soon blackening, at first tomentose, glabrescent, sometimes with narrow concentric zonation, developing a thick crust; margin white then concolorous, obtuse. Context up to 1 cm thick, golden brown, blackening with KOH, silky-zonate fibrous, woody. Pore surface greyish-brown to umbrinous; pores irregular, polygonal, 6-8/mm, 75-175 µm diameter, dissepiments 25-100 µm thick, brittle and lacerate; tubes stratified, developing 2-5 layers, 1-4 mm to each layer, darker than context, carbonaceous. Basidiospores c. 4 x 3 µm, ovoid to broadly ellipsoid, hyaline, with a smooth, slightly thickened wall, and irrgular guttulate contents. Basidia 12-16 x 4-5 µm, short clavate, 4-spored. Setae absent. Setal hyphae present both in the context and the dissepiment trama. Context setal hyphae radially arranged, up to 600 x 4-13 µm, unbranched or rarely branching, with a thick dark chestnut brown wall and capillary lumen; apex acute to obtuse, occasionally nodulose. Tramal setal hyphae diverging to project into the tube cavity, 55-100 x 9-18 µm, with a thick dark chestnut-brown wall (2.5-7.5 µm thick) and a broad obtuse apex. Hyphal system dimitic with generative and skeletal hyphae, non-agglutinated in the context, but strongly agglutinated in the dissepiments. Generative hyphae 1-6.5 µm diameter, hyaline or brownish, wall thin to somewhat thickening, freely branching, simple septate. Skeletal hyphae 5-9 µm diameter, unbranched, of unlimited growth, with a thick reddish-brown wall (up to 2.5 µm thick) and continuous lumen, non-septate.


Top of page To date, P. noxius has been recorded only from tropical regions of the world, although it is found in Japan and Australia (NSW), but is absent from South America. Many of the host crops, such as cocoa, have been grown extensively in South American countries such as Brazil, so it is unlikely that the disease would not have been detected if present.

Distribution Table

Top of page

The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes


AngolaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
BeninPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
Burkina FasoPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
CameroonPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
Central African RepublicPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
Congo, Democratic Republic of thePresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
Côte d'IvoirePresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
GabonPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
GhanaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
KenyaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
NigeriaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
Sierra LeonePresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
TanzaniaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
TogoPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
UgandaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)


ChinaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
IndiaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
-AssamPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
-KarnatakaPresentZhang and Chee (1989); CABI and EPPO (1997)
-KeralaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
-Tamil NaduPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
-TripuraPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
-Uttar PradeshPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
IndonesiaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
-JavaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
-SumatraPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
JapanPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
-Bonin IslandsPresentSahashi et al. (2015)
-Ryukyu IslandsPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
MalaysiaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
-SabahPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
-SarawakPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
MyanmarPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
PakistanPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
PhilippinesPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
SingaporePresentCABI and EPPO (1997); AVA (2001)
Sri LankaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
TaiwanPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
VietnamPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)

North America

Costa RicaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
CubaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
Puerto RicoPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)


American SamoaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
AustraliaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
-New South WalesPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
-QueenslandPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
Federated States of MicronesiaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
FijiPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
NiuePresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentHodges and Tenorio (1984); CABI and EPPO (1997)
Papua New GuineaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
SamoaPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)
Solomon IslandsPresentLiloqula and Johnson (1987); CABI and EPPO (1997)
VanuatuPresentCABI and EPPO (1997)

Risk of Introduction

Top of page There are only two risks to consider. Firstly, infection by spores is through freshly cut stumps. Therefore, preventing stumps being susceptible to infection by either poisoning the stump or removing it eliminates this risk. The second risk is from infected root fragments which may harbour viable fungus for up to 4 years in buried roots 3 inches in diameter. The accidental movement of such fragments in soil poses a risk of spreading the disease, and soil should not be removed from infested areas. Non-susceptible annual crops can assist in the breakdown of these fragments, and it is recommended that infested soil should not be re-planted with susceptible trees for a period of several years. This is often ignored in the redevelopment of old plantations due to economic pressures, but the earlier re-planting may be a false saving if this disease is still present, as it will destroy the new planting very quickly.

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page The list of hosts provided concentrates on species of significant economic importance to individual countries. P. noxius appears to be non host-specific (Chang, 1995a) behaving more like an opportunistic pathogen; the only restriction being its very slow growth rate which means it is unlikely to cause problems in annual crops. As new plantation industries are established, it will not be surprising to see the host range increase. Currently, it occurs on trees belonging to over 50 tropical genera.

Growth Stages

Top of page Vegetative growing stage


Top of page P. noxius attacks a wide range of tropical plants, although mostly trees. The leaves of an infected tree yellow and wilt and typical dieback symptoms result. Symptoms may develop slowly or the tree may wilt and become defoliated in only a few days.

The most characteristic symptom of this disease is the brown encrustation covering the surface of the diseased roots. This consists of brown mycelium in which soil and small stones are firmly embedded. The fungus moves towards the collar of the tree and occasionally the encrustation may be visible above ground level. In the diseased wood, dark lines are visible due to the presence of the fungal hyphae. In advanced stages of decay, the wood becomes light, dry and friable and honeycombed. It is one of several fungi associated with heart or butt rots of forest and timber trees (Ivory, 1996).

Sporophores are very rare, large, hard purplish-brown bracts with yellowish-white growing margins and concentric blackish zones towards the edges. They are formed above ground on the encrustation on the trunk. Unlike other similar fungi, there are no rhizomorphs. Spread is by physical contact with the root encrustations.

List of Symptoms/Signs

Top of page
SignLife StagesType
Leaves / abnormal colours
Leaves / abnormal leaf fall
Leaves / wilting
Leaves / yellowed or dead
Roots / 'dirty' roots
Roots / soft rot of cortex

Biology and Ecology

Top of page P. noxius is spread in two main ways. The first is by windborne spores which can infect freshly cut tree stumps or fresh wounds (Sujan-Singh and Pandey, 1989). The second is by root-to-root contact (Lewis and Arentz, 1988). The leading edge of the mycelial sleeve will infect healthy roots of other trees if they touch. Infected root pieces can remain viable for many years in the soil. Differences in virulence have been detected in isolates both from the same host species and from different host species (Nandris et al., 1985, 1987b).

A study in Japan (Hattori et al., 1996) showed that clonal populations, indicative of vegetative spread, were common between adjacent trees and covered areas of 20 m² but clones varied over larger areas indicating multiple basidiospore infection. Long-term survival in soil is mainly through infected woody debris and 80-90% survival in soils of lower moisture content has been recorded (Chang, 1996).

The fungus is confined mainly to tropical areas. In Taiwan at the limit of the northern tropics it is found mostly at lower altitudes on sandier soils in the southern areas, but not in the north (Chang and Yang, 1998).

Plant Trade

Top of page
Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Bulbs/Tubers/Corms/Rhizomes hyphae Yes Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Roots hyphae Yes Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches fruiting bodies; hyphae Yes Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Fruits (inc. pods)
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants
True seeds (inc. grain)


Top of page Due to the extremely diverse host range and geographical distribution, the economic impact of P. noxius is highly variable. The impact can vary from insignificant losses to the loss of 60% of rubber trees in a plantation after 21 years (Nandris et al., 1987a). Once present in a plantation, the disease has the potential to cause tremendous devastation if allowed to proceed, due to its growth habit of spreading from root to root. It is one of several basidiomycetes causing damaging heart rots of Acacia mangium plantations in South-East Asia (See et al., 1996).


Top of page

Field symptoms combined with the presence of encrustation (see Detection and Inspection Methods) are the most practical diagnostic features of this disease. In culture on malt agar forms, P. noxius raised white and brown plaques, which are characteristic of the species (Nandris et al., 1987a). Recently, a selective medium has been developed consisting of 20 g/l malt-extract, 20 g/l agar, 10 mg/l benomyl, 10 mg/l dichloran, 100 mg/l ampicillin, 500 mg/l gallic acid and 1000 mg/l tergitol NP-7 (Chang, 1995b). Induction of sporulation and collection of basidiospores for the purpose of establishing single-spore colonies has been demonstrated (Bolland et al., 1984).

Tsai et al. (2007) developed specific primers which can be used in the PCR-based diagnosis of P. noxius.

Detection and Inspection

Top of page Early detection of the pathogen before the typical wilt symptoms are visible is very difficult and time consuming. Methods include scraping away the soil around the collar and the main roots and looking for the distinctive mycelial sleeve, or baiting out the pathogen by placing sticks of a susceptible host in the soil and retrieving for laboratory examination after 3 weeks (Nandris et al., 1987a). The only practical method in a plantation situation is to examine the roots of dead or dying trees looking for the mycelial encrustation. Infected roots can be cleared of soil and the infection traced to roots of other trees by simply following the encrustation.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page P. lamaensis, a closely related species with comparable geographic distribution, is readily separated from P. noxius by the presence of hymenial setae and narrow (up to 7 µm diameter only) setal hyphae of the dissepiment trama similar to those in the context.

Above-ground symptoms are similar to other root rot fungi (such as Rigidoporous lignosus of rubber) and collar rot fungi (such as Phytophthora palmivora of cocoa), and pathogen identification cannot be made on these symptoms alone. The soil-encrusted mycelium sleeve is unique to P. noxius and is used to rapidly distinguish this from other pathogens in the field.

Prevention and Control

Top of page

Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Control measures depend on routine inspection and removal of diseased trees. Recommendations in the past have concentrated on digging exclusion trenches around the infected tree and digging along infected roots until the infection front is located. This, however, has proved to be of limited practical value on a large scale. Various fungicides have been found to have activity against the pathogen (Lim et al., 1990; Mappes and Hiepko, 1984), but routine field treatments with these fungicides are not economical.

The establishment of a good ground cover to hasten the decay of root fragments is recommended when clearing land. This will enhance the breakdown of any infected root fragments which otherwise would provide an inoculum source for the following crop.

Spore infection can be prevented by the chemical poisoning of stumps with compounds which are not toxic to this pathogen (Anon., 1976). Spores require a freshly cut surface, and cannot infect a dead surface.

Other chemicals which have been found to be effective eradicants are soil fumigants (Ram and Venkataram, 1975), but are not used on a plantation scale due to prohibitive cost, and potential danger to users. Volatile ammonia generated from urea is fungicidal to P. noxius in infested wood (Chang and Chang, 1999).

Biocontrol with species of Trichoderma is recognised as a method to prevent spore infection of freshly cut stumps (Anon., 1993). P. noxius is not a strong competitor and is unable to colonize a stump if another organism, such as a species of Trichoderma, is already present. But the method is technically more demanding than poisoning stumps, and is not currently widely used. The potential for biocontrol in the rhizosphere has been demonstrated, particularly with species of Trichoderma (Lim and Teh, 1990; Jacob et al., 1991; Kothandaraman et al., 1991).


Top of page

Ann PJ; Lee HL; Huang TC, 1999. Brown root rot of 10 species of fruit trees caused by Phellinus noxius in Taiwan. Plant Disease, 83(8):746-750; 12 ref.

Anon, 1976. Annual Report, 1975, Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia, 133-139.

Anon, 1993. Annual Report Rubber Research Institute of India 1991-1992, 26-33.

AVA, 2001. Diagnostic records of the Plant Health Diagnostic Services, Plant Health Centre, Agri-food & Veterinary Authority, Singapore.

Bolland L; Griffin DM; Heather WA, 1984. Induction of sporulation in basidiomes of Phellinus noxius and preparation of single spore isolates. Bulletin of the British Mycological Society, 18(2):131-133

CABI; EPPO, 1997. Pheilinus noxius. [Distribution map]. Distribution Maps of Plant Diseases, December (Edition 5). Wallingford, UK: CAB International, Map 104.

Chang TT, 1995. Decline of nine tree species associated with brown root rot caused by Phellinus noxius in Taiwan. Plant Disease, 79(9):962-965

Chang TT; Chang RJ, 1999. Generation of volatile ammonia from urea fungicidal to Phellinus noxius in infested wood in soil under controlled conditions. Plant Pathology, 48(3):337-344; 37 ref.

Chang TT; Yang WW, 1998. Phellinus noxius in Taiwan: distribution, host plants and the pH and texture of the rhizosphere soils of infected hosts. Mycological Research, 102(9):1085-1088; 17 ref.

Chang TunTschu, 1995. A selective medium for Phellinus noxius. European Journal of Forest Pathology, 25(4):185-190

Chang TunTschu, 1996. Survival of Phellinus noxius in soil and in the roots of dead host plants. Phytopathology, 86(3):272-276; 20 ref.

Hattori T; Abe Y; Usugi T, 1996. Distribution of clones of Phellinus noxius in a windbreak on Ishigaki Island. European Journal of Forest Pathology, 26(2):69-80; 23 ref.

Hodges CS; Tenorio JA, 1984. Root disease of Delonix regia and associated tree species in the Mariana Islands caused by Phellinus noxius. Plant Disease, 68(4):334-336

Ivory MH, 1996. Diseases of forest trees caused by the pathogen Phellinus noxius. In: Raychaudhuri SP, ed. Forest Trees and Palms: Diseases and Control. New Delhi, India: Oxford & IBH Publishing Co, 111-133.

Jacob CK; Annajutty Joseph; Jayarathnam K, 1991. Effect of fungal antagonists on Phellinus noxius causing brown root disease of Hevea. Indian Journal of Natural Rubber Research, 4(2):142-145

Kothandaraman R; Kochuthresiamma Joseph; Mathew J; Rajalakshmi VK, 1991. Actinomycete population in the rhizosphere of Hevea and its inhibitory effect on Phellinus noxius. Indian Journal of Natural Rubber Research, 4(2):150-152

Lewis DJ; Arentz F, 1988. Technical note on a computer intensive analysis method. Klinkii Lp, Papua New Guinea; Forestry Society of Papua New Guinea University of Technology, 3(4):60-61

Liloqula R; Johnson CM, 1987. Brown root rot of cocoa caused by Phellinus noxius. Annual Report 1985, Research Department, Agriculture Quarantine Service, Ministry of Agriculture & Lands, Solomon Islands Honiara, Solomon Islands; Dodo Creek Research Station, 38-43

Lim TK; Hamm RT; Mohamad RB, 1990. Persistency and volatile behaviour of selected chemicals in treated soil against three basidiomycetous root disease pathogens. Tropical Pest Management, 36(1):23-26

Lim TK; Teh BK, 1990. Antagonism in vitro of Trichoderma species against several basidiomycetous soil-borne pathogens and Sclerotium rolfsii. Zeitschrift fur Pflanzenkrankheiten und Pflanzenschutz, 97(1):33-41

Mappes D; Hiepko G, 1984. New possibilities for controlling root diseases of plantation crops. Mededelingen van de Faculteit Landbouwwetenschappen Rijksuniversiteit Gent, 49(2a):283-292

Nandris D; Nicole M; Geiger JP, 1987. Root rot disease of rubber trees. Plant Disease, 71(4):298-306

Nandris D; Nicole M; Geiger JP, 1987. Variation in virulence among Rigidoporus lignosus and Phellinus noxius isolates from West Africa. European Journal of Forest Pathology, 17(4-5):271-281

Nicole M; Nandris D; Geiger JP; Rio B, 1985. Variability among African populations of Rigidoporus lignosus and Phellinus noxius. European Journal of Forest Pathology, 15(5/6):293-300

Ram CSV, 1975. Brown root disease of tea. Planters' Chronicle, 70(88):217-218.

Sahashi N; Akiba M; Ota Y; Masuya H; Hattori T; Mukai A; Shimada R; Ono T; Sato T, 2015. Brown root rot caused by Phellinus noxius in the Ogasawara (Bonin) islands, southern Japan - current status of the disease and its host plants. Australasian Plant Disease Notes, 10(1):33.

See LS; Zakaria Ibrahim; Hashim MohdNoor; Wan Razali Wan Mohd, 1996. Impact of heart rot in Acacia mangium Willd. plantations of Peninsular Malaysia. Impact of diseases and insect pests in tropical forests. Proceedings of the IUFRO Symposium, Peechi, India, 23-26 November 1993., 1-10; 14 ref.

Sujan Singh; Pandey PC, 1989. Brown root-rot of poplars. Indian Forester, 115(9):661-669

Tsai JN; Hsieh WH; Ann PJ; Yang CM, 2007. Development of specific primers for Phellinus noxius. Plant Pathology Bulletin, 16(4):193-202.

Zhang KM; Chee KH, 1989. Hevea diseases of economic importance in China. Planter, 65(754):3-8

Distribution Maps

Top of page
You can pan and zoom the map
Save map