Little is known about the population processes that shape the genetic diversity in natural populations of rhizobia. A sample of 912 Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar trifolii isolates were collected from naturalized red clover populations (Trifolium pratense) and analysed for 15 allozyme loci to determine the levels and distribution of genetic diversity. Hierarchical analyses compared different sampling levels, geographical separation, and temporal separation. Total genetic diversity across all isolates was H= 0.426, with 57.6% of the total diversity found among isolates obtained from individual red clover plants. Relatively low genetic differentiation among populations and high differentiation among plants within populations was observed; this suggests that gene flow and founder effect act differently at geographical and local scales. Significant differences were observed in (i) allele frequencies among populations and among plants within populations, and (ii) the frequency distribution of the most widespread and the most abundant strains. When multilocus linkage disequilibrium was calculated, significant levels of disequilibrium were observed in the total sample and in three of the eight populations.