Vernalization, the acceleration of flowering by a long period of cold temperature, ensures that many plants overwinter vegetatively and flower in spring. In Arabidopsis, allelic variation at the FRIGIDA (FRI) locus is a major determinant of natural variation in flowering time. Dominant alleles of FRI confer late flowering, which is reversed to earliness by vernalization. We cloned FRI and analyzed the molecular basis of the allelic variation. Most of the early-flowering ecotypes analyzed carry FRI alleles containing one of two different deletions that disrupt the open reading frame. Loss-of-function mutations at FRI have thus provided the basis for the evolution of many early-flowering ecotypes.