To detect potential Pleistocene refugia and colonization routes along the Atlantic coast, we analysed amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs) in 140 individuals from 14 populations of Hypochaeris salzmanniana (Asteraceae), an annual species endemic to the southwestern European and northwestern African coastal areas. Samples covered the total distributional range of the species, with eight populations in southwestern Spain and six populations in northwestern Morocco. Using nine primer combinations, we obtained 546 fragments in H. salzmanniana and its sister species H. arachnoidea of which 487 (89.2%) were polymorphic. The neighbour-joining tree shows that the populations south of the Loukos river in Morocco are clearly differentiated, having more polymorphic, private, and rare fragments, and higher genetic diversity, than all the other populations. The southernmost populations in Morocco, south of the river Sebou, form a large panmictic population. They are probably the oldest populations that have been relatively unaffected by stochastic processes resulting from Pleistocene glaciations. Northward migration of populations during this period may have resulted in loss of genetic diversity in specific regions, perhaps due to bottlenecks caused by rise in sea level during interglacial periods, and, in some cases, by changes in the breeding system.