The magnitude of genetic differences among and heterogeneity within globe artichoke cultivars is unknown. Variation among individual heads (capitula) from three artichoke cultivars and two breeding populations were evaluated using RAPD markers. One vegetatively propagated cultivar (`Green Globe'), two seed-propagated cultivars (`Imperial Star' and `Big Heart') and two breeding populations were examined. Two to thirteen polymorphic bands were observed for 27 RAPD primers, which resulted in 178 scored bands. Variation was found within and among all cultivars, and breeding populations indicating that all five groups represent heterogeneous populations with respect to RAPD markers. The genetic relationships among individual genotypes were estimated using the ratio of discordant bands to total bands scored. Multidimensional scaling of the relationship matrix showed five independent clusters corresponding to the three cultivars and two breeding populations. The integrity of the five clusters was confirmed using pooled chi-squares for fragment homogeneity. Average gene diversity (Hs) was calculated for each population sample, and a one-way analysis of variance showed significant differences among populations. `Big Heart' had an Hs value equivalent to the two breeding populations, while clonally propagated `Green Globe' and seed propagated `Imperial Star' had the lowest Hs values. The RAPD heterogeneity observed within clonally propagated `Green Globe' is consistent with phenotypic variability observed for this cultivar. Overall, the results demonstrate the utility of the RAPD technique for evaluating genetic relationships and contrasting levels of genetic diversity among populations of artichoke genotypes.