Nuclear-encoded SSU rDNA, chloroplast LSU rDNA, and rbcL genes were sequenced from 53 strains of conjugating green algae (Zygnematophyceae, Streptophyta) and used to analyze phylogenetic relationships in the traditional order Zygnematales. Analyses of a concatenated data set (5,220 nt) established 12 well-supported clades in the order; seven of these constituted a superclade, termed “Zygnemataceae.” Together with genera (Zygnema, Mougeotia) traditionally placed in the family Zygnemataceae, the “Zygnemataceae” also included representatives of the genera Cylindrocystis and Mesotaenium, traditionally placed in the family Mesotaeniaceae. A synapomorphic amino acid replacement (codon 192, cysteine replaced by valine) in the LSU of RUBISCO characterized this superclade. The traditional genera Netrium, Cylindrocystis, and Mesotaenium were shown to be para- or polyphyletic, highlighting the inadequacy of phenotypic traits used to define these genera. Species of the traditional genus Netrium were resolved as three well-supported clades each distinct in the number of chloroplasts per cell, their surface morphology (structure and arrangement of lamellae) and the position of the nucleus or nuclear behavior during cell division. Based on molecular phylogenetic analyses and synapomorphic phenotypic traits, the genus Netrium has been revised, and a new genus, Nucleotaenium gen. nov., was established. The genus Planotaenium, also formerly a part of Netrium, was identified as the sister group of the derived Roya/Desmidiales clade and thus occupies a key position in the evolutionary radiation leading to the most species-rich group of streptophyte green algae.