On Lord Howe Island, speciation is thought to have taken place in situ in a diverse array of distantly related plant taxa (Metrosideros, Howea and Coprosma; Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 2011, 13188). We now investigate whether the speciation processes were driven by divergent natural selection in each genus by examining the extent of ecological and genetic divergence. We present new and extensive, ecological and genetic data for all three genera. Consistent with ecologically driven speciation, outlier loci were detected using genome scan methods. This mechanism is supported by individual-based analyses of genotype–environment correlations within species, demonstrating that local adaptation is currently widespread on the island. Genetic analyses show that prezygotic isolating barriers within species are currently insufficiently strong to allow further population differentiation. Interspecific hybridization was found in both Howea and Coprosma, and species distribution modelling indicates that competitive exclusion may result in selection against admixed individuals. Colonization of new niches, partly fuelled by the rapid generation of new adaptive genotypes via hybridization, appears to have resulted in the adaptive radiation in Coprosma – supporting the ‘Syngameon hypothesis’.