Isozyme electrophoresis was used to study the morphologically similar sister speciesSphagnum rubellum andS. capillifolium from a sample of 1313 plants representing 37 populations from Scandinavia, Great Britain and S Germany. The mean pairwise genetic identities (I) among conspecific populations were 0.976 forS. rubellum and 0.969 forS. capillifolium, versus 0.627 between populations of the two species. Interspecific gene flow was indicated by the observation of occasional plants in sympatric populations with alleles otherwise unique to the other species. Populations of bisexualS. capillifolium were significantly more variable than populations of unisexualS. rubellum. Alpine populations ofS. rubellum andS. capillifolium were dominated by few genotypes, and differentiation among populations was pronounced, indicating a low level of sexual recombination. InS. rubellum, maximum variability was found in western areas with high annual precipitation. Distribution of alleles inS. rubellum indicated restricted gene flow between Great Britain and Scandinavia. Postglacial migration from separate refugia may explain large-scale variation inS. rubellum.