Fossils reported previously from the Early Silurian (Llandovery) lower Massanutten Sandstone (Virginia, USA) are formally described here as Prattella massanuttense gen. & sp. nov. Organization into cellular filaments embedded in extracellular matrix, the sizes of cells and filaments and the fluvial origin of deposits that host the fossils are all consistent with cyanobacterial affinity. Prattella massanuttense combines preservation as carbonaceous compression at a macroscopic scale with cellular preservation by mineral replacement of cell contents at a microscopic scale. These fossils provide the earliest direct evidence for the occurrence of cyanobacteria in fluvial habitats and add to the knowledge of terrestrial ecosystems that hosted early stages of land plant evolution. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 160, 284–289.