Most of the Nordic region was ice-covered during the last (Weichselian) glaciation. During the postglacial period, plant and animal species recolonized the region from several directions and the geographic structuring of genetic variation within Nordic species may still contain a historic component that reflects patterns of postglacial immigration. The present investigation of 69 populations of Silene dioica represents the first large-scale allozyme study of a widespread herbaceous plant in the Nordic region. Although the frequencies of individual alleles showed a range of different geographic patterns, mapping of the axis scores from an ordination of variation at eight polymorphic loci revealed a division into two main geographic groups of populations. The broadly south-western and northeastern distributions of these two groups of populations suggest that immigration into the region may have involved both eastern and southern geographic sources. However, the geographic boundaries between the two groups of populations are diffuse, and the relatively low between-population component of genetic diversity (G(ST) = 16.4%) suggests a history of extensive gene dispersal by pollen. (C) 2002 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2002, 77, 23-34.