Major Groups of Fungi

Fungi are a diverse group of organisms that typically share some ecological features, i. e., they have a number of evolutionary origins, but they have the same life style. They historically include the true fungi and other fungal-like organisms.

Great advances have been made in developing a natural classification for fungi in the last 10 years through projects, such as the National Science Foundation’s Assembling the Fungal Tree of Life. A thorough re-evaluation of historical classifications has recently caused considerable upheaval in our understanding of how different mushroom forms are related, and scientific names throughout the group remain in a state of flux. Impacts of New Knowledge provides an overview of several recent changes in classification. For a general outline of the Fungi and fungal-like organisms as of 2012, see our Taxonomic Outline (fungal taxonomy). For detailed information on the classification of the fungi, visit The Tree of Life Web Project.

True Fungi

Ascomycetes (Ascomycota)

Cup Fungi, True and False Morels, Earth Tongues, Truffles, most Lichens, and their relatives.


Basidiomycetes (Basidiomycota)

Agarics (gilled mushrooms), Boletes, Chanterelles, Coral Fungi, Polypores, Teeth Fungi, Jelly Fungi, Puffballs, Earthstars, Bird’s Nest Fungi, Rusts, and Smuts and their relatives.

Chytrids and their relatives (Chytridiomycota, Blastocladiomycota)

Chytrids are aquatic, soil, and plant pathogenic fungi. They contain the most ancestral relatives of true fungi and have motile spores.

Mitosporic fungi

This artificial group of fungi is used for asexual spore stages, whose relationships to other fungi are not known. The sexual stages are primarily ascomycetes and basidiomycetes.

Zygomycetous fungi (Zygomycetous fungi and Glomeromycota)

Zygomycetous fungi are primarily terrestrial and lack conspicuous fruiting bodies. They include common molds and soil fungi that form symbiotic relationships with many plants.

Fungal-like Organisms

Slime Molds (Myxomycota)

Slime molds differ from most fungi in their ingestive nutrition; in contrast, fungi and other fungal-like organisms absorb nutrients.

Slime Molds

Water Molds and Other Oomycetes (Oomycota)

Aquatic and terrestrial species involved in plant and animal disease and decay, including the organisms causing late blight of potatoes and ich on aquarium fish.

Hyphochytrids (Hyphochytridiomycota)

Hyphochytrids occur in aquatic habitats and in soil and resemble chytrids.

Labyrinthulids (Labyrinthulomycota)

Labyrinthulids live in marine coastal waters and have a distinctive cell organization.

Plasmyxids (Phytomyxea)

Plasmyxids are parasites of plants, including the organism causing club root of cabbage and its relatives; they have a distinctive feeding phase.