DNA polymorphisms among Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes are widely used as genetic markers in map-based cloning strategies. New PCR-based molecular markers do not only facilitate molecular mapping, but can also be used to obtain reliable sequence information for cladistic analyses. We have used CAPS (cleaved amplified polymorphic sequences) markers and a direct sequencing strategy to estimate genetic similarity among eighteen Arabidopsis ecotypes. Sequences at four loci, two from the nuclear and two from a non-nuclear genome, were analysed. For each ecotype more than 1000 bp of sequence information was obtained, and genetic similarity was calculated from a total of 35 polymorphic sites using a character-based approach. Divergence ranged from zero up to 50 discordant characters among the 72 characters defined by the polymorphisms. Separate calculations based on the nuclear and the non-nuclear sequences were performed and revealed a number of common features, including the existence of small clusters of very closely related ecotypes separated from each other by extensive sequence divergence. Our results provide information useful especially to investigators setting up crosses for chromosome landing strategies.