Because organellar genomes are often uniparentally inherited, chloroplast (cp) and mitochondrial (mt) DNA polymorphisms have become the markers of choice for investigating evolutionary issues such as sex-biased dispersal and the directionality of introgression. To the extent that organellar inheritance is strictly maternal, it has also been suggested that the insertion of transgenes into either the chloroplast or mitochondrial genomes would reduce the likelihood of gene escape via pollen flow from crop fields into wild plant populations. In this paper we describe the adaptation of chloroplast simple sequence repeats (cpSSRs) for use in the Compositae. This work resulted in the identification of 12 loci that are variable across the family, seven of which were further shown to be highly polymorphic within sunflower (Helianthus annuus). We then used these markers, along with a novel mtDNA restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP), to investigate the mode of organellar inheritance in a series of experimental crosses designed to mimic the initial stages of crop-wild hybridization in sunflower. Although we cannot rule out the possibility of extremely rare paternal transmission, our results provide the best evidence to date of strict maternal organellar inheritance in sunflower, suggesting that organellar gene containment may be a viable strategy in sunflower. Moreover, the portability of these markers suggests that they will provide a ready source of cpDNA polymorphisms for use in evolutionary studies across the Compositae.