The genetic structure of a population of the ectomycorrhizal basidiomycete Laccaria amethystina (Bolt. ex Hooker) Murr. was assessed in a closed 150-year-old beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) forest in the Vosges Mountains in northeastern France. During the autumn of 1994 and 1997, sporophores were collected from three 100-m2 sampling plots located along a 120-m transect crossing the beech stand. The genetic variation of 676 sporophores was initially estimated using heteroduplex analysis of the ribosomal DNA intergenic spacer (IGS1). Ten unique IGS1 heteroduplex/homoduplex patterns were identified, although three types represented most of the sporophores analysed. Each group of IGS1 type was then analysed using random amplified microsatellite analysis (RAMS). RAMS resolved 388 different genotypes amongst the 634 sporophores analysed from the three plots during the autumn of 1994 and 1997. Density as high as 130 genets per 100 m2 was observed during the autumn of 1994. The largest clone covered ≈ 1 m2, but most genets covered a few cm2 and produced only one to three sporophores. Only eight genotypes identified in 1994 were found in 1997. Although L. amethystina has the capacity for vegetative persistence, the present study indicates that its populations maintain a genetic structure more consistent with a high frequency of sexual reproduction. This suggests that beech trees could be recolonized by new genotypes each year. Alternatively, this spatial distribution may also arise from erratic fruiting of underground persistent genets. These features (i.e. numerous genets of small size), typical of ruderal species, contrast with studies carried out on other ectomycorrhizal basidiomycetes occurring in mature closed forests.