is the major group (Division/Phylum) of fungi to which the Swiss needle cast (SNC) pathogen belongs. This fungal group produces sexual spores (ascospores) in a sac called an ascus (plural: asci), and this is the defining characteristic of this large and diverse group. Many ascomycetes also (or only) produce asexual spores, called conidia, but the fungus that causes SNC does not have this type of spore stage.