A recently developed molecular technique (amplified fragment length polymorphisms, AFLP) was used for characterizing genetic heterogeneity within and among populations of a critically endangered species of plant, Astragalus cremnophylax var. cremnophylax. Using AFLP, up to 50 polymorphic genetic markers per AFLP-PCR amplification were generated, and a total of 220 variable markers overall. This information was used first to assess genetic diversity within each of the three known populations of Astragalus cremnophylax var. cremnophylax from Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, USA: North Rim (NR; n = 970), South Rim Site 1 (SR1; n = 500), and South Rim Site 2 (SR2; n = 2). Diversity in the form of average heterozygosity [symbol: see text] H [symbol: see text] and the proportion of polymorphic genes [symbol: see text] P [symbol: see text] was greatest in the NR population ([symbol: see text] H [symbol: see text] = 0.13 and [symbol: see text] P [symbol: see text] = 0.38) and least in the SR2 population ([symbol: see text] H [symbol: see text] = 0.02 and [symbol: see text] P [symbol: see text] = 0.04). Diversity was also quite low for the SR1 population ([symbol: see text] H [symbol: see text] = 0.04 and [symbol: see text] P [symbol: see text] = 0.10). In addition, substantial genetic differentiation among populations was indicated by both phenetic (AMOVA) and genetic analyses (overall corrected FST = 0.41). This finding was corroborated by the results of several multivariate analyses which utilized the genetic data, including a UPGMA cluster analysis and a principal coordinate analysis which revealed the existence of discrete groups corresponding to the populations. Population structure was further revealed within the NR population which was known to consist of four spatially separated groups of plants. Several recommendations for the future management of the species are discussed.