Abstract A major part of the fungal community in coniferous litter consists of fungi whose taxonomic position and ecology are unknown. Here, nine isolates from within commonly occurring phylogenetic groups were tested for their ability to decompose Pinus sylvestris needles. In a 1-yr long incubation study, needle mass loss as well as changes in cellulose and lignin content were determined and compared to those caused by two litter basidiomycetes ( Marasmius androsaceus and Mycena epipterygia) with recognized ability to decompose needles. A basidiomycetous Clavulina/ Sistotrema strain appeared to be cellulolytic but not ligninolytic. Chalara longipes and three other strains within Helotiales also decomposed cellulose but not lignin, whereas Mollisia cinerea (also Helotiales) and two Dothideomycetes – Sydowia polyspora and a Mytilinidion sp., seemed unable to cause significant mass loss of cellulose. Lophodermium pinastri (Rhytismatales) readily decomposed cellulose, and also caused considerable loss of lignin.