Cladophialophora carrionii is one of the four major etiologic agents of human chromoblastomycosis in semi-arid climates. This species was studied using sequence data of the internal transcribed spacer region of rDNA, the partial beta-tubulin gene and an intron in the translation elongation factor 1-alpha gene, in addition to morphology. With all genes a clear bipartition was observed, which corresponded with minute differences in conidiophore morphology. A new species, C. yegresii, was introduced, which appeared to be, in contrast to C. carrionii, associated with living cactus plants. All strains from humans, and a few isolates from dead cactus debris, belonged to C. carrionii, for which a lectotype was designated. Artificial inoculation of cactus plants grown from seeds in the greenhouse showed that both fungi are able to persist in cactus tissue. When reaching the spines they produce cells that morphologically resemble the muriform cells known as the "invasive form" in chromoblastomycosis. The tested clinical strain of C. carrionii proved to be more virulent in cactus than the environmental strain of C. yegresii that originated from the same species of cactus, Stenocereus griseus. The muriform cell expressed in cactus spines can be regarded as the extremotolerant survival phase, and is likely to play an essential role in the natural life cycle of these organisms.