Background and Aims A shift from outcrossing to selfing is thought to reduce the long-term survival of populations by decreasing the genetic variation necessary for adaptation to novel ecological conditions. However, theory also predicts an increase in adaptive potential as more of the existing variation becomes expressed as homozygous genotypes. So far, relatively few studies have examined how a transition to selfing simultaneously affects means, variances and covariances for characters that might be under stabilizing selection for a spatially varying optimum, e.g. characters describing leaf morphology. Methods Experimental crosses within an initially self-sterile population of Crepis tectorum were performed to produce an outbred and inbred progeny population to assess how a shift to selfing affects the adaptive potential for measures of leaf morphology, with special emphasis on the degree of leaf dissection, a major target of diversifying selection within the study species. Key Results Three consecutive generations of selfing had a minor impact on survival, the total number of heads produced and the mean leaf phenotype, but caused a proportional increase in the genetic (co)variance matrix for foliar characters. For the degree of leaf dissection, the lowest 50th percentile of the inbred progeny population showed a disproportionate increase in the genetic variance, consistent with the recessive nature of the weakly lobed phenotype observed in interpopulation crosses. Comparison of inbreeding response with large-scale patterns of variation indicates a potential for selection in a (recently) inbred population to drive a large evolutionary reduction in degree of leaf dissection by increasing the frequency of particular sibling lines. Conclusions The results point to a positive role for inbreeding in phenotypic evolution, at least during or immediately after a rapid shift in mating system.