Photobiont diversity within populations of Xanthoria parietina was studied at the species level by means of ITS analyses and at the subspecific level with fingerprinting techniques (RAPD-PCR) applied to sterile cultured algal isolates. Populations from coastal, rural and urban sites from NW, SW and central France and from NE Switzerland were investigated. Between 8 and 63 samples per population, altogether 150 isolates, were subjected to phenetic and ordination analyses. Epiphytic samples of X. parietina associated with different genotypes of Trebouxia decolorans but saxicolous samples contained T. arboricola. For comparison the T. gelatinosa photobiont of a small population of Teloschistes chrysophthalmus (4 samples) was investigated. ITS sequences of T. decolorans isolates from different geographic locations were largely similar. In all populations a surprisingly high diversity of genotypes was observed in Trebouxia isolated from lichen thalli growing side by side. As Trebouxia spp. are assumed to be asexually reproducing haplonts, the genetic background of this diversity is discussed. Fingerprinting techniques are a powerful tool for obtaining valuable insights into the genetic diversity within the algal partner of lichen-forming fungi at the population level, provided that sterile cultured isolates are available.