A composite linkage map of Brassica oleracea was developed from maps of four different populations, derived from 108 DNA, isozyme and morphological loci covering over 747 centimorgans in 11 linkage groups. Of these linkage groups, 8 were assigned to their respective chromosomes by alignment with gene synteny groups of B. oleracea. Distortions in segregation ratios increased with the level of divergence of the parents and were attributed to differentiation of parental chromosomes. Comparison of the individual maps demonstrates that the B. oleracea genome undergoes frequent chromosomal rearrangement, even at the subspecies level. Small inversions were the most frequent form of aberration followed by translocations. The former type of aberration could occur without a noticeable effect on meiotic behavior of chromosomes or on pollen fertility. The obvious deduction from the composite map is that a large fraction of the B. oleracea genome is duplicated, falling into three classes: randomly dispersed, linked-gene families, and blocks duplicated in non-homologous chromosomes. The genealogy of chromosomes sharing duplicated segments was formulated and indicates that B. oleracea is a secondary polyploid species derived from ancestral genome(s) of fewer chromosomes.