The phylogeny of the terrestrial cyanobacterium Nostoc commune and its neighboring Nostoc species was studied using molecular genetic and chemotaxonomic approaches. At least eight genotypes of N. commune were characterized by the differences among 16S rRNA gene sequences and the petH gene encoding ferredoxin-NADP⁺ oxidoreductase and by random amplified polymorphic DNA analysis. The genotypes of N. commune were distributed in Japan without regional specificity. The nrtP gene encoding NrtP-type nitrate/nitrite permease was widely distributed in the genus Nostoc, suggesting that the occurrence of the nrtP gene can be one of the characteristic features that separate cyanobacteria into two groups. The wspA gene encoding a 36-kDa water stress protein was only found in N. commune and Nostoc verrucosum, suggesting that these Nostoc species that form massive colonies with extracellular polysaccharides can be exclusively characterized by the occurrence of the wspA gene. Fifteen species of Nostoc and Anabaena were investigated by comparing their carotenoid composition. Three groups with distinct patterns of carotenoids were related to the phylogenic tree constructed on the basis of 16S rRNA sequences. Nostoc commune and Nostoc punctiforme were clustered in one monophyletic group and characterized by the occurrence of nostoxanthin, canthaxanthin, and myxol glycosides.