The recently emerged plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum is responsible for causing the sudden oak death epidemic. This review documents the emergence of P. ramorum based on evolutionary and population genetic analyses. Currently infection by P. ramorum occurs only in Europe and North America and three clonal lineages are distinguished: EU1, NA1 and NA2. Ancient divergence of these lineages supports a scenario in which P. ramorum originated from reproductively isolated populations and underwent at least four global migration events. This recent work sheds new light on mechanisms of emergence of exotic pathogens and provides crucial insights into migration pathways.