Summary The rhizomorph branching habit in soil, competitive saprophytic ability and virulence were determined for 15 species of Armillaria from Europe, North America and Australia and New Zealand. In soil, rhizomorphs of northern hemisphere species branched either monopodially or dichotomously, whereas all five species from Australia and New Zealand branched dichotomously. The dry weight of rhizomorphs produced in soil by isolates of a species and by species was very variable. Species with monopodially branched rhizomorphs had significantly higher saprophytic colonization scores than dichotomously branched species and scores were significantly higher in Garry oak than Douglas-fir segments and in fresh than autoclaved segments. The damage to Douglas-fir seedlings caused by isolates of most dichotomously branched species was significantly greater than that caused by monopodially branched species. Species producing dichotomously branched rhizomorphs were more aggressive than monopodially branched species, killing 80% (vs. 17%) of seedlings that died during the first year of the 2-year experiment.