Abstract. It is highly probable that transgenic cultivars of sugar beet may influence wild beets in the seed-production-area of northern Italy. For this reason a survey of the local wild beet populations and their habitat characteristics was conducted in 1994/1995, i.e. before transgenic beets and their off spring could have become established. Wild beets (Beta vulgaris ssp. maritima) were found at 21 locations between Trieste and Cesenatico, as part of the natural littoral vegetation classified as Atriplicetum tatarici (Cakiletea maritimae) and Crithmetum (Crithmo-Staticetea). The analysis of phenotypic attributes leads to a division into three different sub-populations. Greenhouse studies on the morphology and life-cycle attributes demonstrated actual gene flow between conventional seed beet and the examined wild beet population.