Abstract Taxonomic relationships within the corals and anemones (Phylum Cnidaria: Class Anthozoa) are based upon few morphological characters. The significance of any given character is debatable, and there is little fossil record available for deriving evolutionary relationships. We analyzed complete 18S ribosomal sequences to examine subclass-level and ordinal-level organization within the Anthozoa. We suggest that the Subclass Ceriantipatharia is not an evolutionarily relevant grouping. The Order Corallimorpharia appears paraphyletic and closely related to the Order Scleractinia. The 18S rRNA gene may be insufficient for establishing robust phylogenetic hypotheses concerning the specific relationships of the Corallimorpharia and the Ceriantharia and the branching sequence for the orders within the Hexacorallia. The 18S rRNA gene has sufficient phylogenetic signal, however, to distinguish among the major groupings within the Class Anthozoa, and we use this information to suggest relationships for the enigmatic taxa Dactylanthus and Dendrobrachia.