In New Zealand, as elsewhere, research on rare species has been dominated by autecological studies of individual threatened species. Limitations of this approach are that it involves no comparison with related common species which may have similar traits, and that the minimal sample size prevents generalisation about causes and consequences of rarity. We report on experimentally determined growth and reproductive traits of 10 rare and common Acaena(Rosaceae) species from two taxonomic sections (sect. Ancistrum and sect. Microphyllae).