Responses of three multipurpose fruit tree species, Parkia biglobosa (Jacq.) Benth, Tamarindus indica L. and Zizyphus mauritiana Lam., to inoculation with five species of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, Acaulospora spinosa Walker and Trappe, Glomus mosseae (Nicol. and Gerd.) Gerd. and Trappe, Glomus intraradices Schenck and Smith, Glomus aggregatum Schenck and Smith emend. Koske and Glomus manihotis Howeler, Sieverding and Schenck, differed markedly with respect to functional compatibility. This was measured as root colonization, mycorrhizal dependence (MD) and phosphorus concentrations in shoots of plants. Root colonization of fruit trees by A. spinosa, G. aggregatum and G. manihotis was high and tree growth increased significantly as a consequence. G. intraradices also colonized well, but provided little growth benefit. G. mosseae colonized poorly and did not stimulate plant growth. The MD of P. biglobosa and T. indica was similar, reaching no more than 36%, while Z. mauritiana showed the highest MD values, reaching a maximum of 78%. The Z. mauritiana A. spinosa combination was the most responsive with respect to total biomass production; phosphorus (P) absorption probably contributed to this more than the absorption of sodium, potassium, magnesium or calcium. The density and length of root hairs were positively correlated with MD, suggesting that root hairs are not indicative of MD.