The genetic diversity and pathogenicity of isolates of Fusarium graminearum and F. asiaticum isolated from wheat heads in China were examined and compared with those of isolates of F. graminearum, F. asiaticum and F. meridionale from Europe, USA and Nepal. Genetic diversity was assessed by SSCP (single strand conformation polymorphism) and AFLP (amplified fragment length polymorphism) analysis and by molecular chemotyping. SSCP analysis of the Fg16F/Fg16R PCR amplicon differentiated F. graminearum, F. asiaticum and F. meridionale and revealed three haplotypes among sequence-characterized amplified region (SCAR) type 1 F. graminearum isolates. AFLP analysis showed a high level of genetic diversity and clustered the majority of Chinese isolates in one group along with other isolates of Asian origin. The second cluster contained F. graminearum isolates from China, Europe and the USA. Of the Chinese isolates, 79% were F. asiaticum and 81% of these were of the 3-AcDON chemotype, with only 9·5% of either chemotype 15-AcDON or NIV. All the Chinese and USA isolates of F. graminearum were 15-AcDON, whereas among the isolates from Europe, 21% were NIV and 8% were 3-AcDON chemotype. No evidence was found for possible differences in aggressiveness between F. graminearum and F. asiaticum. Highly aggressive isolates were present in each region and no evidence was found for any association between aggressiveness and geographical origin or chemotype among the isolates examined. No difference was observed in pathogenicity towards wheat seedlings between Chinese isolates and those from Europe, the USA or Nepal.