• growth;
  • fecundity;
  • RAPDs;
  • small populations;
  • redlisted species;
  • conservation

The amount and pattern of genetic variation was surveyed in two Swedish and three Czech populations of the rare perennial forest plant Vicia pisiformis. This species has a mainly easterly-continental European distribution and has few and small populations in Sweden. It is classified as ‘vulnerable’ on the Swedish Red Data list. Seeds from natural populations were collected and grown under controlled conditions in growth chambers. The variation was estimated in growth and fecundity traits and with Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA, RAPD. Low inter- and intra-population variation in RAPD-markers was found using 11 primers, with a similarity index (Wetton) for the families of 0.98. In contrast, multivariate analysis of variance showed significant morphological differences within and between populations. Also in the univariate ANOVAs, a number of the traits showed significant between-and/or within population differentiation. Cluster analysis for the morphological traits and RAPDs (UPGMA) did not structure the variation of families in accordance with their geographical distance. A Mantel test based on comparisons between Mahalonobfs and Jaccard distance for morphological and RAPD data, respectively, did not reveal any significant correlation between the two matrices. It is concluded that if a genetic conservation program is to be applied on Vicia pisiformis, different sampling strategies are needed to capture morphological vs RAPD variation. This is, to our knowledge, the first investigation that compares RAPD and morphological variation in a threatened plant species.