Species population genetics could be an important factor explaining variation in clade species richness. Here, we use newly generated amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) data to test whether five pairs of sister clades of Costa Rican orchids that differ greatly in species richness also differ in average neutral genetic differentiation within species, expecting that if the strength of processes promoting differentiation within species is phylogenetically heritable, then clades with greater genetic differentiation should diversify more. Contrary to expectation, neutral genetic differentiation does not correlate directly with total diversification in the clades studied. Neutral genetic differentiation varies greatly among species and shows no heritability within clades. Half of the variation in neutral genetic differentiation among populations can be explained by ecological variables, and species-level traits explain the most variation. Unexpectedly, we find no isolation by distance in any species, but genetic differentiation is greater between populations occupying different niches. This pattern corresponds with those observed for microscopic eukaryotes and could reflect effective widespread dispersal of tiny and numerous orchid seeds. Although not providing a definitive answer to whether population genetics processes affect clade diversification, this work highlights the potential for addressing new macroevolutionary questions using a comparative population genetic approach.