DNA was prepared from cyanobacteria freshly isolated from coralloid roots of natural populations of five cycad species: Ceratozamia mexicana mexicana (Mexico), C. mexicana robusta (Mexico), Dioon spinulosum (Mexico), Zamia furfuraceae (Mexico) and Z. skinneri (Costa Rica). Using the Southern blot technique and cloned Anabaena PCC 7120 nifK and glnA genes as probes, restriction fragment length polymorphisms of these cyanobacterial symbionts were compared. The five cyanobacterial preparations showed differences in the sizes of their DNA fragments hybridizing with both probes, indicating that different cyanobacterial species and/or strains were in the symbiotic associations. On the other hand, a similar comparison of cyanobacteria freshly collected from a single Encephalartos altensteinii coralloid root and from three independently subcultured isolates from the same coralloid root revealed that these were likely to be one and the same organism. Moreover, the complexity of restriction patterns shows that a mixture of Nostoc strains can associate with a single cycad species although a single cyanobacterial strain can predominate in the root of a single cycad plant. Thus, a wide range of Nostoc strains appear to associate with the coralloid roots of cycads.