The arbitrary genus Phytomonas includes a biologically diverse group of kinetoplastids that live in a wide variety of plant environments. To understand better the subdivisions within the phytomonads and the variability within groups, the exon, intron and non-transcribed spacer sequences of the spliced leader RNA gene were compared among isolates of the phloem-restricted members. A total of 29 isolates associated with disease in coconut, oil palm and red ginger (Alpinia purpurata, Zingibreaceae) were examined, all originating from plantations in South America and the Caribbean over a 12-year period. Analysis of non-transcribed spacer sequences revealed 2 main groups, I and II; group II could be further subdivided into 2 subgroups, IIa and IIb. Three classes of spliced leader (SL) RNA gene were seen, with SLI corresponding to group I, SLIIa to group IIa, and SLIIb to group IIb. Two isolates showed some characteristics of both major groups. Group-specific oligonucleotide probes for hybridization studies were tested, and a multiplex amplification scheme was devised to allow direct differentiation between the 2 major groups of phloem-restricted Phytomonas. These results provide tools for diagnostic and molecular epidemiology of plant trypanosomes that are pathogenic for commercially important flowers and palms.