A phylogeny of marine Rhodophyta has been inferred by a number of methods from nucleotide sequences of nuclear genes encoding small subunit rRNA from 39 species in 15 orders. Sequence divergences are relatively large, especially among bangiophytes and even among congeners in this group. Subclass Bangiophycidae appears polyphyletic, encompassing at least three lineages, with Porphyridiales distributed between two of these. Subclass Florideophycidae is monophyletic, with Hildenbrandiales, Corallinales, Ahnfeltiales, and a close association of Nemaliales, Acrochaetiales, and Palmariales forming the four deepest branches. Cermiales may represent a convergence of vegetative and reproductive morphologies, as family Ceramiaceae is at best weakly related to the rest of the order, and one of its members appears to be allied to Gelidiales. Except for Gigartinales, for which more data are required, the other florideophyte orders appear distinct and taxonomically justified. A good correlation was observed with taxonomy based on pit-plug ultrastructure. Tests under maximum-likelihood and parsimony of alternative phylogenies based on structure and chemistry refuted suggestions that Acrochaetiales is the most primitive florideophyte order and that Gelidiales and Hildenbrandiales are sister groups.