Fossil pollen records indicate that Hippophaë rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) was widespread on late- and early postglacial raw soils throughout much of central and northern Europe, but that Early Holocene reforestation restricted populations to northern coastal habitats, or along mountain streams in the Alps, Pyrenees, and Carpathians. We used sequence variation at the nuclear chalcone synthase intron (Chsi), in conjunction with chloroplast DNA–restriction fragment length polymorphism data, to investigate the intraspecific phylogeny, phylogeographic structure, and expansion demographic history of this dioecious and wind-pollinated shrub at its range-wide scale in Europe and Asia Minor. Four major Chsi phylogroups of unresolved relationships were identified with estimated divergences ∼172 000 years ago. Large-scale phylogeographic structures of nuclear and cytoplasmic markers were congruent in identifying (i) southeastern Europe as the most likely source of colonization into central Europe and Scandinavia, and (ii) the area just north of the Alps as a contact zone between populations from the Alps and the east/central European-Scandinavian lineage. Coalescence-based analyses (i.e. nested clade analysis and mismatch distributions) of Chsi variation were able to detect at least four major episodes of population growth, all within about the last 40 000 years. In particular, these analyses identified a nearly synchronized timing of population expansions in various parts of the species’ range in central-eastern Europe/Asia Minor, most likely correlating with the Younger Dryas Stadial (∼13 000–11 600 years ago). It remains to be established whether the phylogeographic history of H. rhamnoides, and particularly its rapid response to the rapid environmental changes of the Younger Dryas cold snap, is unique to the species, or whether it is shared with other cold-tolerant shrub (or grassland) species known from late-glacial raw soils in Europe.