We determined the size of genets of late-stage ectomycorrhizal fungi in field sites in coastal Northern California. Basidiocarps were collected, mapped and subjected to genetic fingerprinting using amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs). The minimum size estimates for the largest genets of Amanita francheti, Lactarius xanthogalactus and Russula cremoricolor were 1.5, 9.3 and 1.1 m2, respectively. The molecular markers also showed that R. cremoricolor is dimorphic, with red- and white-capped morphotypes of this species forming a continuous population. Our results suggest that spore propagation plays a much more important role in the life history of the Russulaceae in undisturbed forest settings than previously recognized. Fungi appearing late in the succession sequence and systems without obvious disturbance therefore do not necessarily colonize primarily by mycelium.