In the northeastern part of Belgium, the Centaurea jacea complex shows extensive morphological variation and is represented by a diploid (2n = 22) and a tetraploid (2n = 44) cytotype. Polysomic inheritance of allozyme markers in the tetraploids, suggesting autopolyploidy, is here demonstrated for the first time. In order to test whether the two cytotypes occupy distinct habitats and possess different gene pools, patterns of allozymic and morphological variation were investigated in relation to ploidy level and site characteristics in 26 populations from the Belgian Ardennes. The two cytotypes showed a parapatric distribution, the diploids occurring at higher elevations (mostly above 500 m) than the tetraploids (mostly below 500 m). Three mixed populations were found near the contact zone of the two cytotypes. Within the mixed populations no triploid plant and no evidence for gene flow between cytotypes were found, despite widely overlapping flowering periods. The two cytotypes can be distinguished on the basis of morphological traits and enzymatic gene pools. The congruence of morphological and allozymic variation with chromosome numbers suggests a secondary contact between the two cytotypes with limited gene flow between them. The origin and persistence of the parapatric distribution are discussed.