A survey of symptoms of phytophthora root and collar rot of common (Alnus glutinosa) and grey alder (A. incana) in riparian and forest stands in Bavaria was conducted by the Bavarian State Forestry and river authorities. Symptoms were seen in 1041 out of 3247 forest alder stands. The majority of the affected stands (80·9%) were less than 21 years old; 46% of these young stands were growing on nonflooded sites and 92% had been planted. The riparian survey showed that symptoms were widespread along more than 50% of the river systems. Along some rivers the disease incidence exceeded 50%. The ‘alder Phytophthora’ was recovered from 166 of 185 riparian and forest alder stands with symptoms. In 58 of the 60 rivers and streams investigated in detail, the source of inoculum was traced back to infested young alder plantations growing on the river banks or on forest sites that drain into the rivers. Once introduced to a river system, the ‘alder Phytophthora’ infects alders downstream. Baiting tests showed that the ‘alder Phytophthora’ was present in rootstocks of alders from three out of four nurseries which regularly bought in alder plants for re-sale, but not in rootstocks from four nurseries that grew their own alders from seed. In addition, the infected nurseries used water from infested water courses for irrigation. The Bavarian State Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry has developed a code of practice for producing healthy alder plants in forest nurseries. This includes a 3-year fallow period between bare-rooted alder crops because of poor survival of the ‘alder Phytophthora’ in soil.