Nodularia, a member of the order Nostocales, is a bloom-forming filamentous cyanobacterium that possesses the ability to form toxic blooms. The toxin produced by Nodularia, nodularin, is a hepatotoxin, similar in structure to the heptapeptide toxin microcystin. Twenty-one strains of Nodularia, representing the species Nodularia spumigena, Nodularia harveyana and Nodularia sphaerocarpa, were analysed for toxin production by protein phosphatase inhibition assay and sequenced over the 16S rDNA region. Phylogenetic analysis of Nodularia 16S rDNA sequences found that Nodularia clustered into two main groups. An N. spumigena cluster was distinct from the benthic species N. harveyana and N. sphaerocarpa. There was no distinction between strains isolated from globally diverse locations. Nodularin-producing species were restricted to the single, evolutionally distinct cluster of N. spumigena. This observation has enabled the design of a specific 16S rRNA PCR for the rapid detection of nodularin-producing strains. Alignment of 16S rDNA sequences from toxic and non-toxic Nodularia with other members of the cyanobacteria allowed the design of both Nodularia generic and toxic N. spumigena-specific primers.