Concerns about the use of genetically appropriate material in restoration often focus on questions of local adaptation. Many reciprocal transplant studies have demonstrated local adaptation in native plant species, but very few have examined how interspecific competition affects the expression of adaptive variation. Our study examined regional scales of adaptation between foothill and coastal populations of two California native bunchgrasses (Elymus glaucus and Nassella pulchra). By combining competitive manipulations with reciprocal transplants, we examined the importance of the vegetation at a site as a selective factor in the process of local adaptation. By monitoring survival and reproduction of reciprocally transplanted populations over the course of 3 years, we also studied the effect of life history stage on the expression of local adaptation. For most of the fitness components we measured, local adaptation was detected and interspecific competition consistently amplified its expression. Expression of local adaptation was especially apparent in the more inbreeding species E. glaucus and suggests that with weaker gene flow, selection may be more effective in creating ecotypes within this species. Local adaptation was detected at all life history stages but was most strongly expressed in traits associated with adult reproduction and the viability of seeds produced by the transplants. Taken together, our results indicate that the importance of local adaptation will become more apparent in the later stages of a restoration project as the plants at a site begin to reproduce and as they experience greater interspecific competition from the maturing vegetation at the site.