We analysed mating system in an annual and colonizing plant, Crepis sancta, that occupies different successional stages in the French Mediterranean region. Based on a previous experiment, we hypothesized that low inbreeding depression measured in young successional stages should select for selfing whereas higher inbreeding depression in old stages should select for outcrossing. Nine populations of C. sancta (Asteraceae) from contrasting successional stages were used to analyse (1) Seed set after autonomous and enforced selfing in controlled conditions and (2) outcrossing rates in natural conditions using allozymes (progeny array analysis). We found that C. sancta possesses a pseudo-self-incompatibility system and that mating system varies among populations. Allozymes revealed that the population multilocus outcrossing rates vary from 0.77 to 0.99. The lowest outcrossing rates occur in the youngest successional stages and complete outcrossing is found in old stages. The data partially agree with the predictions we made and the results are more generally discussed in the light of factors changing during succession. We did not find any evidence of reproductive assurance in the nine populations, contrary to what is often assumed as a major factor governing mating system evolution in colonizing species. We propose that mating system variation can be interpreted as the result of the balance between the cost of outcrossing and inbreeding depression in a metapopulation context.