The Russian dandelion, Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS), is a perennial species native to Central Asia that produces high quality, natural rubber. Despite its potential to help maintain a stable worldwide rubber supply, little is known about genetic variation in this species. To facilitate future germplasm improvement efforts, we developed simple-sequence repeat (SSR) markers from available expressed-sequence tag (EST) data and used them to investigate patterns of population genetic diversity in this nascent crop species. We identified numerous SSRs (1,510 total) in 1,248 unigenes from a larger set of 6,960 unigenes (derived from 16,441 ESTs) and designed PCR primers targeting 767 of these loci. Screening of a subset of 192 of these primer pairs resulted in the identification of 48 pairs that appeared to produce single-locus polymorphisms. We then used the most reliable 17 of these primer pairs to genotype 176 individuals from 17 natural TKS populations. We observed an average of 4.8 alleles per locus with population-level expected heterozygosities ranging from 0.28 to 0.50. An average pairwise F ST of 0.11 indicated moderate but statistically significant levels of genetic differentiation, though there was no clear geographic patterning to this differentiation. We also tested these 17 primer pairs in the widespread common dandelion, T. officinale, and a majority successfully produced apparently single-locus amplicons. This result demonstrates the potential utility of these markers for genetic analyses in other species in the genus.