Three commercial coal tips in the Illawarra region of New South Wales were investigated for the incidence of VA mycorrhizas in plants growing on them. All the plants examined except species of Personia and Banksia (Proteaceae) were infected by VA mycorrhizal fungi. Infection level ranged from 0 to 88%. Three main types of fungal endophytes, namely Glomus macrocarpus var. macrocarpus, Glom us mosseae, and Sclerocystis rubiformis, were identified. The possible role of VA mycorrhizas in plant colonization of coal spoil areas is discussed. The method of colorimetric quantification of VA infection was found a useful alternative to the slow and tedious method of clearing and staining. But the pigment-extraction method is reliable only for measuring mycorrhizal infection in controlled short term experiments. This method, however, cannot be used to analyse infection in field-grown, long established roots.