Pseudovivipary is an environmentally induced flowering abnormality in which vegetative shoots replace seminiferous (sexual) inflorescences. Pseudovivipary is usually retained in transplantation experiments, indicating that the trait is not solely induced by the growing environment. Pseudovivipary is the defining characteristic of Festuca vivipara, and arguably the only feature separating this species from its closest seminiferous relative, Festuca ovina. We performed phylogenetic and population genetic analysis on sympatric F. ovina and F. vivipara samples to establish whether pseudovivipary is an adaptive trait that accurately defines the separation of genetically distinct Festuca species. Chloroplast and nuclear marker-based analyses revealed that variation at a geographical level can exceed that between F. vivipara and F. ovina. We deduced that F. vivipara is a recent species that frequently arises independently within F. ovina populations and has not accumulated significant genetic differentiation from its progenitor. We inferred local gene flow between the species. We identified one amplified fragment length polymorphism marker that may be linked to a pseudovivipary-related region of the genome, and several other markers provide evidence of regional local adaptation in Festuca populations. We conclude that F. vivipara can only be appropriately recognized as a morphologically and ecologically distinct species; it lacks genetic differentiation from its relatives. This is the first report of a ?failure in normal flowering development? that repeatedly appears to be adaptive, such that the trait responsible for species recognition constantly reappears on a local basis.