High-throughput DNA sequencing and genotyping technologies have enabled a new generation of research in plant genetics where combined quantitative and population genetic approaches can be used to better understand the relationship between naturally occurring genotypic and phenotypic diversity. Forest trees are highly amenable to such studies because of their combined undomesticated and partially domesticated state. Forest geneticists are using association genetics to dissect complex adaptive traits and discover the underlying genes. In parallel, they are using resequencing of candidate genes and modern population genetics methods to discover genes under natural selection. This combined approach is identifying the most important genes that determine patterns of complex trait adaptation observed in many tree populations.