• AFLP;
  • Carpathians;
  • disjunction;
  • dispersal;
  • European mountain system;
  • genetic structure;
  • ice age;
  • refugia;
  • species distribution pattern;
  • subalpine plants

A phylogeographical analysis of Ranunculus platanifolius, a typical European subalpine tall-herb species, indicates the existence of two main genetic lineages based on amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers. One group comprises populations from the Balkan Peninsula and the south-eastern Carpathians and the other includes the remaining part of the range of the species, encompassing the western Carpathians, Sudetes, Alps, Pyrenees and Scandinavia. The main phylogeographical break observed in this species runs across the Carpathians and separates the main parts of this range (western and south-eastern Carpathians), supporting a distinct glacial history of populations in these areas. The high genetic similarity of the Balkan Peninsula and south-eastern Carpathian populations could indicate a common glacial refugium for these contemporarily isolated areas of species distribution. The western and northern part of the species range displays an additional weak differentiation into regional phylogeographical groups, which could have been shaped by isolation in glacial refugia or even by a postglacial isolation. The observed weak phylogeographical structure could also be linked with ecological requirements, allowing survival along streams in relatively low, forested mountain ranges. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London