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Lolium perenne (cv. AberDart) was grown at 14 locations along a latitudinal gradient across Europe (37–68°N) to study the impact of ultraviolet radiation (UV) and climate on aboveground growth and foliar UV-B absorbing compounds. At each location, plants were grown outdoors for 5 weeks in a replicated UV-B filtration experiment consisting of open, UV-B transparent (cellulose diacetate) and UV-B opaque (polyester) environments. Fourier transform-infrared spectroscopy was used to compare plant metabolite profiles in relation to treatment and location. UV radiation and climatic parameters were determined for each location from online sources and the data were assessed using a combination of anova and multiple regression analyses. Most of the variation in growth between the locations was attributable to the combination of climatic parameters, with minimum temperature identified as an important growth constraint. However, no single environmental parameter could consistently account for the variability in plant growth. Concentrations of foliar UV-B absorbing compounds showed a positive trend with solar UV across the latitudinal gradient; however, this relationship was not consistent in all treatments. The most striking experimental outcome from this study was the effect of presence or absence of filtration frames on UV-absorbing compounds. Overall, the study demonstrates the value of an European approach in studying the impacts of natural UV across a large latitudinal gradient. We have shown the feasibility of coordinated UV filtration at multiple sites but have also highlighted the need for open controls and careful interpretation of plant responses.