The diversity and phylogenetic position of photobionts in the widespread saxicolous, crustose lichen-forming ascomycete Lecanora rupicola s.l. is presented. The algal partners of this lichen species complex belong to diverse and unrelated lineages in the genus Trebouxia. Specimens were sampled from different habitats and geographical origins. Either whole thallus DNA extractions or minute fragments of the algal layer of the lichen thallus were subjected to polymerase chain reaction, using primers that specifically amplify internal transcribed spacer rDNA of the photobionts. No correlations between different chemical races of L. rupicola with particular lineages of Trebouxia spp. were found. Irrespective of the different algal partners, all lichen thalli abundantly developed ascomata. L. rupicola apparently maintains full fecundity with a low degree of selectivity for photobionts, which promotes the occurrence of this lichen-forming species in ample ecological situations. © 2006 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2006, 88, 283–293.