A recently emerging bleeding canker disease, caused by Pseudomonas syringae pathovar aesculi (Pae), is threatening European horse chestnut in northwest Europe. Very little is known about the origin and biology of this new disease. We used the nucleotide sequences of seven commonly used marker genes to investigate the phylogeny of three strains isolated recently from bleeding stem cankers on European horse chestnut in Britain (E-Pae). On the basis of these sequences alone, the E-Pae strains were identical to the Pae type-strain (I-Pae), isolated from leaf spots on Indian horse chestnut in India in 1969. The phylogenetic analyses also showed that Pae belongs to a distinct clade of P. syringae pathovars adapted to woody hosts. We generated genome-wide Illumina sequence data from the three E-Pae strains and one strain of I-Pae. Comparative genomic analyses revealed pathovar-specific genomic regions in Pae potentially implicated in virulence on a tree host, including genes for the catabolism of plant-derived aromatic compounds and enterobactin synthesis. Several gene clusters displayed intra-pathovar variation, including those encoding type IV secretion, a novel fatty acid biosynthesis pathway and a sucrose uptake pathway. Rates of single nucleotide polymorphisms in the four Pae genomes indicate that the three E-Pae strains diverged from each other much more recently than they diverged from I-Pae. The very low genetic diversity among the three geographically distinct E-Pae strains suggests that they originate from a single, recent introduction into Britain, thus highlighting the serious environmental risks posed by the spread of an exotic plant pathogenic bacterium to a new geographic location. The genomic regions in Pae that are absent from other P. syringae pathovars that infect herbaceous hosts may represent candidate genetic adaptations to infection of the woody parts of the tree.