The inhibitory effect of seven essential oils on the apical growth of hyphae of Aspergillus fumigatus was studied using a bio cell tracer by vapour contact in a sealed vessel. Based on the inhibitory pattern, these essential oils were classified into three groups. The first group, composed of citron, lavender and tea tree oils, stopped the apical growth in a loading dose of 63 micrograms ml-1 air, but allowed the regrowth of the hyphae after removal of the vapour, indicating fungistatic action. The second group, consisting of perilla and lemon-grass oils, stopped the apical growth in a loading dose of 6.3 micrograms ml-1 air, and did not allow the regrowth after gaseous contact at 63 micrograms ml-1 air, indicative of fungicidal action. The third group, consisting of cinnamon bark and thyme oils, retarded the growth in a dose of 6.3 micrograms ml-1 air, stopped it in a dose of 63 micrograms ml-1 air, and incompletely suppressed regrowth of the hyphae. Gas chromatographic analysis revealed that vapours of essential oils were absorbed on fungal mycelia and agar medium most abundantly by the first group, followed by the second and third groups, reflecting the volatility of the respective groups. Suppression of the apical growth by vapour contact was ascribed to the direct deposition of essential oils on fungal mycelia, together with an indirect effect via the agar medium absorbed.