Large-scale surveys of genome size evolution in angiosperms show that the ancestral genome was most likely small, with a tendency towards an increase in DNA content during evolution. Due to polyploidisation and self-replicating DNA elements, angiosperm genomes were considered to have a 'one-way ticket to obesity' (Bennetzen & Kellogg 1997). New findings on how organisms can lose DNA challenged the hypotheses of unidirectional evolution of genome size. The present study is based on the classical work of Babcock (1947a) on karyotype evolution within Crepis and analyses karyotypic diversification within the genus in a phylogenetic context. Genome size of 21 Crepis species was estimated using flow cytometry. Additional data of 17 further species were taken from the literature. Within 30 diploid Crepis species there is a striking trend towards genome contraction. The direction of genome size evolution was analysed by reconstructing ancestral character states on a molecular phylogeny based on ITS sequence data. DNA content is correlated to distributional aspects as well as life form. Genome size is significantly higher in perennials than in annuals. Within sampled species, very small genomes are only present in Mediterranean or European species, whereas their Central and East Asian relatives have larger 1C values.