• autoploidy;
  • enzyme markers – heterozygosity;
  • ice age;
  • phylogeography;
  • plant migration;
  • polyploidy

Patterns of variation at nine enzyme loci were examined in 528 plants representing diploid and tetraploid populations of Parnassia palustris s. l. in Europe to assess genetic variation patterns and migration history. Half of the plants showed a unique multilocus phenotype and 75% of all phenotypes occurred only in Scandinavia. Diploid populations showed similar levels of genetic diversity as other widespread outbreeding species with animal-mediated pollination and F-statistics indicated excessive heterozygosity and low rates of gene flow among them. In spite of dramatic population histories caused by the ice ages, diploid populations have maintained the same genetic diversity in Scandinavia as in central and southern Europe. Northern populations have apparently been established through the gradual advance of genetically variable populations and patterns of variation at individual loci indicate different migration routes, from the south-south-west and the east-north-east, respectively. The data strongly support a repeated autoploid origin of the tetraploid cytotype which has been much more successful than the diploid progenitors in colonizing new land since the last ice age. High genetic diversity in Scandinavia has apparently been obtained by a combination of immigration of plants from different source areas and recurrent formation of autotetraploids from diploid progenitors. © 2003 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2003, 142, 347−372.