Collections of Puccinia triticina, the wheat leaf rust fungus, were obtained from tetraploid and hexaploid wheat in the central highlands of Ethiopia, and a smaller number from Kenya, from 2011 to 2013, in order to determine the genetic diversity of this wheat pathogen in a center of host diversity. Single-uredinial isolates were derived and tested for virulence phenotype to 20 lines of Thatcher wheat that differ for single leaf rust resistance genes and for molecular genotypes with 10 simple sequence repeat (SSR) primers. Nine virulence phenotypes were described among the 193 isolates tested for virulence. Phenotype BBBQJ, found only in Ethiopia, was predominantly collected from tetraploid wheat. Phenotype EEEEE, also found only in Ethiopia, was exclusively collected from tetraploid wheat and was avirulent to the susceptible hexaploid wheat 'Thatcher'. Phenotypes MBDSS and MCDSS, found in both Ethiopia and Kenya, were predominantly collected from common wheat. Phenotypes CCMSS, CCPSS, and CBMSS were found in Ethiopia from common wheat at low frequency. Phenotypes TCBSS and TCBSQ were found on durum wheat and common wheat in Kenya. Four groups of distinct SSR genotypes were described among the 48 isolates genotyped. Isolates with phenotypes BBBQJ and EEEEE were in two distinct SSR groups, and isolates with phenotypes MBDSS and MCDSS were in a third group. Isolates with CCMSS, CCPSS, CBMSS, TCBSS, and TCBSQ phenotypes were in a fourth SSR genotype group. The diverse host environment of Ethiopia has selected and maintained a genetically divergent population of P. triticina.