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maize cob infected by Ustilago maydis
Author: Kai Hirdes
Source: Wikimedia Commons


The class of Ustilaginomycetes contains more than 1,000 species of basidiomycetous plant pathogens. Various groups like the smut fungi are economically important disease causing organisms, especially on cereals.

The Ustilaginomycetes have a dimorphic life cycle with a saprobic haploid phase and a parasitic dikaryophase. The thick-walled and durable teliospores survive in the environment and upon germination form the basidium which produces haploid basidiospores or sporidia. The sporidia are unicellular saprobic yeasts or yeast-like forms. They disperse and merge, forming dikaryotic, multicellular hyphae. These are parasitic, penetrate plants and cause plant diseases. The parasitic phase eventually ends with the formation of the thick-walled teliospores which again disperse and survive until the next season.

This page only deals with plant pathogens. For other groups of Ustilaginomycetes in the system see:

The following orders are here included: