phy·​to·​plas·​ma | \ ˌfī-tə-ˈplaz-mə How to pronounce phytoplasma (audio) \

Definition of phytoplasma

: any of a group of bacteria that are related to mycoplasmas, cause plant diseases (such as aster yellows or elm yellows) by infecting phloem tissue, and are transmitted especially by homopteran insect vectors

Note: Phytoplasmas are assigned temporary taxonomic names because they cannot yet be grown in artificial media as required in bacterial nomenclature for a fully valid name.

For almost half a century, plant pathologists thought phytoplasmas were viruses. To this day, the inability to grow these bacteria outside plants or insects hinders efforts to get a handle on their biology and genomes.— Evelyn Strauss

called also mycoplasma-like organism

First Known Use of phytoplasma

1994, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for phytoplasma

phyto- + plasma (after mycoplasma), now taken as a New Latin genus name

Note: "In 1994, the name 'phytoplasma' was adopted by the Phytoplasma Working Team at the 10th Congress of the International Organization of Mycoplasmology to collectively denote MLOs [myoplasma-like organisms]." (Saskia A. Hougenhout et al., "Phytoplasmas: bacteria that manipulate plants and insects," Molecular Plant Pathology, vol. 9, no. 4, July, 2008, pp. 403-23.

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about phytoplasma

Time Traveler for phytoplasma

Time Traveler

The first known use of phytoplasma was in 1994

See more words from the same year

Statistics for phytoplasma

Cite this Entry

“Phytoplasma.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Oct. 2020.

Comments on phytoplasma

What made you want to look up phytoplasma? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Namesakes Word Quiz

  • a citrus fruit possibly named after a person
  • Which of the following is a fruit named after a Moroccan seaport?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!