In many plant and animal species, sexual and asexual forms have different geographical distributions (‘geographic parthenogenesis’). The common dandelion Taraxacum officinale s.l. provides a particularly clear example of differing distributions: diploid sexuals are restricted to southern and central Europe, while triploid asexuals occur across Europe. To get a better understanding of the factors underlying this pattern, we studied the distribution and demography of sexuals and asexuals in a mixed population that was located at the northern distribution limit of the sexuals. In this population three adjacent, contrasting microhabitats were found: a foreland and south and north slopes of a river dike. Comparative analyses of the distribution, phenology and demography indicated that sexuals had a stronger preference for the south slope than did asexuals. We therefore propose that the large-scale geographic parthenogenesis in T. officinale is shaped by an environmental gradient which acts upon the sexuals. © 2004 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2004, 82, 205–218.