BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Among-population differentiation in phenotypic traits and allelic variation is expected as a consequence of isolation, drift, founder effects and local selection. Therefore, investigating molecular and quantitative genetic divergence is a pre-requisite for studies of local adaptation in response to selection under variable environmental conditions. METHODS: Among- and within-population variation were investigated in six geographically separated European populations of the white campion, Silene latifolia, both for molecular variation at six newly developed microsatellite loci and for quantitative variation in morphological and life-history traits. To avoid confounding effects of the maternal environment, phenotypic traits were measured on greenhouse-reared F(1) offspring. Tests were made for clinal variation, and the correlations among molecular, geographic and phenotypic distances were compared with Mantel tests. KEY RESULTS: The six populations of Silene latifolia investigated showed significant molecular and quantitative genetic differentiation. Geographic and phenotypic distances were significantly associated. Age at first flowering increased significantly with latitude and exhibited a Q(st) value of 0.17 in females and 0.10 in males, consistent with adaptation to local environmental conditions. By contrast, no evidence of isolation-by-distance and no significant association between molecular and phenotypic distances were found. CONCLUSIONS: Significant molecular genetic divergence among populations of Silene latifolia, from the European native range is consistent with known limited seed and pollen flow distances, while significant quantitative genetic divergence among populations and clinal variation for age at first flowering suggest local adaptation.