Basidiospores are implicated in the distribution and genetic diversity of Ganoderma boninense, cause of basal stem rot (BSR) and upper stem rot (USR) of oil palm (Elaeis guineensis). Measurement of aerial basidiospores within plantations in Sumatra showed continuous and high production over 24 h (range c. 2–11 000 spores m−3) with maximum release during early evening. Basidiospores applied to cut surfaces of fronds, peduncles and stems germinated in situ. Equivalent, extensive wounds are created during plantation harvesting and management and represent potential sites for formation of infective heterokaryons following mating of haploid basidiospore germlings. Use of spore-sized micro-beads showed that basidiospores could be pulled up to 10 cm into severed xylem vessels, where they are relatively protected from dehydration, UV irradiation and competing microflora. Diversity of isolates from five locations on two plantations was assessed by RAMS fingerprinting. Isolates from within individual palms with USR were identical and represent single infections, but different USR infections had unique band patterns and revealed separate infections. Some BSR-affected trees contained more than one isolate, and thus had multiple infections. There was one example of adjacent BSR palms with the same isolate, indicating vegetative spread, but there were no identical genets from BSR infections and adjacent fallen palms. Isolate diversity was as great within a plantation as between plantations. It is evident that basidiospores play a major role in spread and genetic variability of G. boninense. Evidence for direct basidiospore infection via cut fronds, indirectly through roots via colonized debris and less frequently, infection by vegetative, clonal spread is considered.