Abstract Steep clines in ecologically important traits may be caused by divergent natural selection. However, processes that do not necessarily invoke ongoing selection, such as secondary contact or restricted gene flow, can also cause patterns of phenotypic differentiation over short spatial scales. Distinguishing among all possible scenarios is difficult, but an attainable goal is to establish whether scenarios that imply selection need to be invoked. We compared the extent of morphological and genetic differentiation between geographically structured red and yellow floral races of Mimulus aurantiacus (bush monkeyflower; Phrymacea). Flower color was assessed in a common garden as well as in the field to determine whether variation was genetic and to quantify the extent of geographical differentiation. Population genetic differentiation at marker loci was measured for both chloroplast and nuclear genomes, and the degree of population structure within and among the floral races was evaluated. Flower color shows both a strong genetic basis and a sharp geographic transition, with pure red-flowered populations in western San Diego County and pure yellow-flowered populations to the east. In the zone of contact, both pure and intermediate phenotypes occur. Patterns of genetic differentiation at marker loci are far less pronounced, as little of the variation is partitioned according to the differences in flower color. Phenotypic differentiation (QST) between populations with different flower colors is much greater than neutral genetic differentiation (FST). When comparisons are made between populations of the same flower color, the opposite trend is evident. Limited neutral genetic structure between the floral races, combined with sharp differentiation in flower color, is consistent with the hypothesis that current or recent natural selection maintains the cline in flower color.